Cyprus is one of four countries under consideration for the US visa waiver programme allows citizens to come to America without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a meeting on Tuesday: “We have four candidates in the pipeline: Israel, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania”.

“We’re very, very focused on the programme,” he added, saying it provides significant economic and security benefits.

In September, the US added Croatia to the visa waiver programme US Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow said, adding Croatia is a $100 million boost to the US economy. “Each time you add one of these countries, the travel just booms,” Dow said.

The White House said in August after a meeting between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Biden emphasised “his administration would strengthen bilateral cooperation with Israel in ways that would benefit both US citizens and Israeli citizens, including by working together towards Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Programme.”

Mayorkas also met with Israel’s US ambassador in August and discussed the waiver issue.

In February, Mayorkas spoke with the European Commission’s Commissioner for Home Affairs and both “expressed their continued interest in maintaining the US-EU Passenger Name Record Agreement and working with Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania to meet the qualifications for the Visa Waiver Programme.”

To participate in the programme, a country must meet requirements related to counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management.

There are currently 40 countries in the programme.

“These requirements include having a rate of nonimmigrant visa refusals below 3 per cent, issuing secure travel documents, and working closely with US law enforcement and counterterrorism authorities,” DHS said last month.

In January this year, Cyprus and the US signed a Declaration of Intent on strengthening cooperation on border security issues, while reaffirming a shared determination to continue to work towards achieving full visa reciprocity.

The agreement was signed by Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides and acting secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf a day after the two attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Larnaca for the US-backed Cyclops (Cyprus Centre for Land, Open-Seas and Port Security) training facility.

Christodoulides made special reference to visas, saying Cyprus’ accession to the US Visa Waiver Programme had been discussed at length and the next steps mapped out.

He did not elaborate. But asked later by CyBC when Cyprus passport holders will no longer be required to secure a visa to travel to the US, the minister said that the declaration of intent specified that this should be achieved the soonest possible.

“There are some obligations under the US programme that must be met. There is a working team on this issue,” he told the TV station.

Addressing the same issue in statements after the meeting, Wolf said the US shared “a willingness to continue to work through our established processes to support the Republic of Cyprus’ progress towards meeting the programme’s eligibility requirements. This will, in turn, facilitate trade and travel while bolstering our security partnership.”