Malaysia confident of qualifying for US visa-waiver programme

Malaysia confident of qualifying for US visa-waiver programme
Good to meet you: Dr Ahmad Zahid meeting Kamala during a courtesy call from the US ambassador at his office in Putrajaya.

Putrajaya: Malaysia is confident of meeting all conditions to qualify for the US visa-waiver programme by September next year, says Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who has been spearheading the effort personally, said he hoped there would be no change in the proposed programme under the Donald Trump administration.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said the Government had worked hard to fulfil the conditions stipulated by the US State Department which included signing the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 on the sharing of information to counter terrorism.

"We have been diligent in meeting the conditions and we expect that by 2018, Malaysia would be able to meet all requirements that will allow us to join the visa-waiver programme," he said after receiving a courtesy call from US ambassador-designate to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir at his office here yesterday.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said he had asked her to convey Malaysia's message on the visa-waiver to the US government.

"We hope the US government will continue with all earlier agreements and understandings that it has made with Malaysia," said Dr Ahmad Zahid.

The US has a list of conditions before it considers Malaysia's application to be a part of the programme which includes sharing of information on terrorism.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said the government had fulfilled all criteria with the exception of one, which was to meet the target of having lower than a 3 per cent visa rejection rate on Malaysian applications.

"Right now, we are at 3.7 per cent and I believe that we can lower the percentage, especially after a series of programmes were carried out to create awareness among travel agencies on US visa application," said Dr Ahmad Zahid.

He said visa applications were not rejected because of security issues, but due to technical and procedural errors.

In March last year, Dr Ahmad Zahid said the US government had tightened conditions for the programme following security concerns after several terror attacks in Europe and Turkey.

Following the extra conditions, Malaysia's application to join the programme would be monitored for a year.

On Thursday, Dr Ahmad Zahid received a farewell call from Indonesian ambassador Herman Prayitno, who is leaving after a four-year stint.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia wanted to work closely with Indonesia as the two neighbours searched for ways to tackle common issues like labour, militancy, extremism and the haze.

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