For years, Malaysia has been trying to get into the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has been pushing for Malaysia's participation in the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) since former US President Barack Obama's administration.
The VWP was incepted in 1986 and the programme allows citizens of eligible countries to travel to the US for up to 90 days, whether it's for business or tourism purposes.
Currently, the programme has been extended to 38 participating countries, in which US citizens and nationals are allowed to travel without a visa to the respective countries for a similar length of time for business or tourism purposes.
Malaysia has been very close in qualifying for the US VWP, fulfilling six out of the seven conditions laid out by the US
According to Malaysia's ambassador to the US, Tan Sri Dr Zulhasnan Rafique, these are the six requirements that Malaysia have managed to fulfil:
• No visa requirement imposed on US citizens travelling to Malaysia;
• Use of e-passport as per International Civil Aviation Organisation specifications;
• Deportation of Malaysians who overstay in the US;
• Signing of the Homeland Security Presidential Directive No. 6 Arrangement;
• Signing the Preventing and Combating Serious Crime Agreement; and
• Exchange of information on Stolen and Lost Travel Documents.
The only condition that Malaysia has failed to fulfil so far, is adhering to the minimum approval rate of 97% in filling up the US visa forms.
He revealed that the country only fell short of being a participating country in the VWP because of Malaysians' inability to fill in forms correctly
"Malaysians just seem to be unable to fill the forms correctly. For the country to qualify for the programme, there must be no more than 3% rejection of applications for visa," Zulhasnan said.
"But the failure rate is still hovering between 3.4% to 3.7% and majority of the rejection is because the forms were not filled up correctly," he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail Online.
He also explained that the rejection rate is beyond the embassy in Kuala Lumpur's control, since such applications are done on an individual basis.
Meanwhile, The Malaysian Insight reported that US ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdir has also confirmed the matter, saying that Malaysia had a 96.7% approval rate for the US business (B1) and tourist (B2) visas.
Nevertheless, it was reported that Malaysia may finally be eligible for the VWP as early as next year
"The visa-waiver programme should come into effect next year – 2018," The Malaysian Insight cited sources familiar with talks between US and Malaysian officials as saying.
On the other hand, The Star Online also reported that a discussion on including Malaysia in the US visa waiver programme is expected to take place at the White House today, 12 September, as Najib is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump.
Najib is currently on a working visit to the US from 11 September until 13 September, at the invitation of Trump.
Do you think Malaysia will be able to participate in the US Visa Waiver Programme by next year? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.