Are we Europeans serious?
The US visa waiver program (VWP) «enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.» Currently, not all EU countries are part of the VWP. Thus, there are many citizens of EU member states that need to apply for a visa in order to travel to the USA. Naturally, not all applications are accepted. On the other hand, U.S. citizens with a valid passport can enter and can stay in any EU country without a visa for tourism or business up to 90 days. Of course it does not matter whether a U.S. citizen has a criminal record, while this does matter for any citizens of a European country. In particular, citizens of VWP countries need to complete a written I-94W form providing basic biographical, travel, and eligibility information while en-route to the U.S.A. This document is checked by U.S. authorities that may deny entry to U.S.A. to certain travelers. In a nutshell, U.S. citizens can freely travel to Europe while European citizens do not travel freely.
As of January 12, 2009, all VWP travelers will be required to obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to
boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP. In other words, VWP travelers will have to apply for an electronic visa. The real question is: What on Earth is the EU commission planning to do anout this?
Citizens of member states outside the VWP need to pay a nonrefundable fee in order to apply for a visa. However, for reasons of reciprocity « [T]he United States strives to eliminate visa issuance fees whenever possible; however, when a foreign government imposes such fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose a «reciprocal» fee to nationals of that country for similar-type of visas». But as noted all U.S. citizens are free to travel to any EU country. Clearly, the word reciprocity has got a new meaning! Again: What on Earth is the EU commission planning to do about this?
The U.S. Administration does everything possible to protect the interests of U.S. citizens and whether we like it or not, it is their right to impose any kind of restriction to foreigners willing to visit their country. But on the other hand, the EU must protect the rights of European citizens.
Europe should not behave as if it is some US protectorate.
PS Apparently, it seems that some EU officials have similar opinions to those expressed here. In particular, the EU does not note progress on full visa reciprocity with the U.S.A.