In late February 2014, the United States Homeland Security made an announcement that has been very well-received by the international community. The prosperous Republic of Chile in South America became the 38th nation to be added to the U.S. visa waiver program. This announcement has a significant effect not only on bilateral relations but also on the possible future of Latin American immigrants in the U.S.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) of the U.S. State Department grants entry to citizens of approved countries without having to go through the visa application and approval process. With the recent addition of Chile, there are now 38 nations whose citizens only need their passport and an approval from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to enter the U.S. for pleasure or business. To learn more about business immigration in San Diego, click here.
Many European nations and a few Asian countries are part of the VWP. Canadian passport holders are in a different travel category in the sense that they do not have to go through the ESTA process. Starting on May 1st, Chile will become the first Latin American nation to participate in the VWP.
The request by Chile to join the VWP started in 2010 under the administration of former President Sebastian Pinera. Before being allowed into the VWP, Chile had to agree to a number of measures on issues such as extradition, electronic passports and law enforcement cooperation. Citizens from VWP countries are less likely to overstay their visits and become undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Chilean passport holders will no longer be expected to pay the previous $160 visa fee. Immigrants from VWP countries tend to have an easier time adjusting their status in the U.S. due to the cooperative agreements and good relations between the two countries. This apparent advantage, however, could be compromised by overstaying the departure date on the I-94 card.
For Latin American immigrants in the U.S., Chile’s entry in the VWP brings hope to the possibility of future improvements to the immigration process, but this is also highly contingent on the ability of each country to bring down their rates of Adjusted Visa Refusals. At U.S. embassies around the world, thousands of visa applications are denied on the spot by interviewers who essentially base their decisions by means of profiling. In general, applicants from countries with higher per capita GDP and positive levels of human development fare better in this regard.
If you have additional questions about the VWP or need assistance with immigration applications or filing, contact the San Diego immigration lawyers at Kazmi and Sakata at 858-874-0711 for a free consultation.