The Cypriot government is in the “final stage” of its quest to secure visa-free travel for its citizens to the United States, President Nikos Christodoulides said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he hailed the “historic nature and importance” of the strategic discourse established between the Cypriot and American governments and called on his cabinet to work for the agreement’s implementation.

“It impacts many ministries, many issues, such as energy, security, trade, attracting investment, research and technology and culture, so everyone’s cooperation is needed,” he said.

Speaking after the meeting, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis explained that one of the final hurdles Cyprus has to clear is the rate at which the US currently rejects visa applications made by Cypriot nationals.

The US only allows visa-free travel to countries of which citizens had had their visa applications rejected at a rate lower than three per cent.

Letymbiotis said Cyprus had been “very close” to that target last year, and that the government hopes it will reach the target this year.

“There is still an agreement to be signed and we hope that this will be done in the very near future. We will fulfil all our obligations. The difficulty of the three-per-cent barrier remains, but we are optimistic that we will be able to achieve this goal,” he said.

He added that the government currently hopes for visa-free travel to the US for Cypriot citizens to be a reality by the end of this year of the early part of next year.

Should Cyprus secure visa-free travel to the US for its citizens, it will join a total of 41 countries, of which 24 are European Union member states, which currently have access to the US’ Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

Instead of applying for a visa, Cypriot citizens would therefore fill out the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) to thus be granted access to the country for up to 90 days per visit.

Those travelling to the US through the Esta are required to have a fully valid biometric passport and to have evidence of a return or onward ticket.

Citizens of countries covered by the VWP are still required to apply for a visa if they have entered Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen since March 1, 2011, or if they have entered Cuba since January 12, 2021.