Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
PETALING JAYA: The United States visa waiver programme (VWP) will be implemented in three stages once the Immigration Department fulfills the programme’s requirements.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the first stage would be applicable to ministers and government officers, and the second stage, to businessmen.
“Civilians will be able to enjoy visa-free travel to the US in the third stage.
“US President Barack Obama projected that this process and its stages could take about one-and-a-half years but we are confident it can be done in less time,” he told a press conference after a courtesy visit by US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun on Monday.
He added that Yun also requested for Malaysia to appoint a coordinator to ensure the process would go on smoothly.
“We will appoint one in due time,” he said.
Last week, Dr Ahmad Zahid announced that visa-free travel to the United States could be possible within 18 months with the Immigration Department preparing to comply with US guidelines.
He said that he was confident of the department fulfilling the US VWP requirements sooner than expected.
Dr Ahmad Zahid noted that US President Barack Obama had said during his visit to Kuala Lumpur in April that his administration was prepared to include Malaysia under the VWP, which would allow citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of up to 90 days for tours or business.
The US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website lists 38 nations as participants of the VWP.
Travellers are still subjected to certain requirements, which include obtaining approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).
Dr Ahmad Zahid said among the immigration process improvements were the implementation of the Advanced Passengers Screening System (APSS), which he said was expected to be rolled out by the middle of this month.
APSS is one of several new security protocols put in place at entry points following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.