No Visa Needed for USA, Canada and the rest of Europe
U.S. visa waiver in effect
ESTA requirements for Czech tourists part of streamlined process
Todd Milbourn for the Prague Post
Czech tourists are now free to travel to the United States without a visa, thanks to new rules that took effect Nov. 17. Officials in both countries applauded the easing of travel restrictions, saying it would encourage more Czechs to visit the United States and strengthen cultural ties between the countries.
The visa-free system replaces an often-criticized restriction that has been in place since the fall of communism, which subjected would-be travelers to a rigorous screening, long delays and a $131 application fee.
“For too long, we made Czechs wait in line,” said John Moravec, president of the Czech and Slovak Cultural Center of Minnesota, who was in Prague last week on a business trip. “Now we’re saying, ‘We welcome you to the U.S.’ ”
Scott Riedmann, deputy consul general at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, said figures aren’t yet available on how many Czechs have applied through the visa-free system and how many have been accepted.
He estimated about 300,000 people around the world have applied to visit the United States using a new online registration system, and less than 1 percent had been denied.
“You don’t have to take a day off from work. You don’t have to pay a fee. You can do it at your home or work,” Riedmann said of the new system. “Anytime you make the process easier, more people are going to take advantage of it.”
So how does the new system work?
Any Czech citizen wanting to visit the United States for 90 days or less can apply for visa-free travel. To do so, they need a Czech biometric passport, which has a special chip that stores personal information electronically and has been available in the Czech Republic since 2006. The cost is around 500 Kč ($24.60).
Equipped with this passport, applicants may go online to Prague.usembassy.gov to register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.
The online questionnaire takes about five minutes, has no fee, and asks for basic information regarding the traveler’s identity, intended length of stay and U.S. contact information.
If the application is accepted, travelers will receive a confirmation, which should be printed out and brought with them to the airport, Riedmann said. There is no e-mail confirmation.
If an applicant receives a “pending notice,” it means a U.S. official will review the application, and they should check back online later to find out the results.