The European Commission said this week that the EU will not impose a visa requirement on American travelers despite the U.S.’s refusal to include five EU member states in its Visa Waiver Program.

In March, the European Parliament adopted a nonbinding resolution in favor of a visa requirement for the U.S., which mandates visas for nationals of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. The Commission, the EU’s executive branch, declined to do so, however, with officials saying that suspending visa-free access to the EU would be “counterproductive at this moment and would not serve the objective of achieving visa-free travel for all EU citizens.”

Commission officials said that they will report on progress they make working with the U.S. on visa reciprocity before the end of the year.

The Commission also said it would continue visa-free access to the EU for Canadian nationals. Canada provides visa-free access for nationals of all EU member states except Bulgaria and Romania. Beginning May 1, however, Canada implemented a visa exemption for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals who have held valid Canadian visitor visas within the last 10 years or currently hold a valid U.S. nonimmigrant visa. A full visa waiver for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals is set to take effect Dec. 1.

“Our goal is and remains to obtain full visa reciprocity with both Canada and the U.S.,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship. “Our continued engagement and patient diplomatic contacts over the past year have brought tangible results already with Canada, and we are committed to proceeding in the same way with the U.S. Dialogue with our strategic partners is the right way forward and we are on the right track.”

BAL Analysis: U.S. and Canadian travelers will continue to be able to travel to EU member states without first obtaining a visa. While the EU’s dispute with Canada appears to be near a resolution, the dispute with the U.S. could continue for months or longer. The EU’s visa-reciprocity rules require countries that are permitted visa-free travel to the EU to reciprocate to all EU member states. The U.S, however, considers each country on its own terms and so far has been unwilling to include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland or Romania in its Visa Waiver Program. The Commission has made it clear that visa-free travel to the EU for U.S. nationals will, in any case, continue for the time being.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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