On June 17 2008, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin and US homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff inked in Washington an interim agreement under the visa waiver programme with the USA, the press service of the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Kalfin is part of the delegation accompanying Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev during his official June 14 - June 18 visit to the US.
"The ability to sign this agreement, leading on a path to a secure visa waiver program, is a milestone in the relationship between our countries. And we appreciate Bulgaria's support for the visa waiver program initiative, recognising that it both has a convenience and a travel benefit, but also an important security benefit," Chertoff said, as quoted by the press service of the homeland security department.
The agreement is an important step toward the inclusion of Bulgaria in the US visa waiver programme with certain countries. The fields of co-operation, envisaged in the document, are in the area of border security and international travel security - issuing passports with biometric data to Bulgarian citizens, establishing a system for reporting of lost and stolen passports, granting information so as to improve border security, and creating a specialised programme for air navigation security.
Washington is envisaged to establish an electronic system to record the issued permits to travel to the US, the passengers that left the country and the lapsed journeys. A precondition is that the percentage of the rejected American visas to Bulgarian citizens decrease to 10 per cent from its current 13 per cent level.
"The important thing today is the very important message to the Bulgarian citizens from the government of the United States that Bulgaria is seen as trustful ally, that Bulgarian citizens are welcome to travel to the United States, and that we shall continue to successfully accomplish this goal," Stanishev said, as quoted by the homeland security department press service.