Aaron Burden

The US Visa Waiver for Romanians: A 2024 Opportunity to Keep Our Friends Closer

4 minutes

In essence, the US Visa Waiver program is offered to countries, whose citizens are not considered likely to overstay their permitted time on their visas. There are only 41 countries participating in this plan. The legitimate question for many of us is why Romania is not on this list and countries such as Croatia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and Estonia are. We all evolved from the same Eastern Communist Block.

Val Vesa
Val Vesa

One school of thought is that, for historical and conjectural reasons, those aforementioned countries are a step ahead on their path to becoming more civilized.Romania and her diaspora have not engaged the high-end trust of the American political apparatus or the grassroots of American society.

At a political level, US interest in Romania is dictated mostly by the defense security paradigm. This apathy of the civilian American sector is due to a political hierarchy, thus offering scarce support for the decision makers to engage in a more comprehensive strategy in Romania’s regard.

There are three systems generating targeted engagement of American interest.

One is based purely on national interests, therefore geo-strategic. For example, given the current situation along the Black Sea line, Romania offers advantages for short-, medium- and long-term national defense. Do not assume for a single moment that decision making is in anyway based on moral interests, rather than the purest American national interests.

The second system is characterized by general trade and commerce, especially the small and medium enterprises within the American FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). In this regard, Romania is at the bottom of the list among other former Warsaw Pact economies. Unlocking this immense chest of riches should have been the priority of Romanian Diplomacy. National interest shapes foreign policy.

The third system is based more on softer sentimentalism, appealing directly to the American population through Public Diplomacy, as well as cultural and individual engagement. On the one hand, to favor Romania through a sustainable foreign policy program, American legislators need the support of the general population, which would benefit from at least a general knowledge of the partner country, its culture, etc.

The Romanian diaspora in America, on the other hand, neglected and left alone, could not mobilize mass interest in Romania, lacking precisely the same coherence and country support from Bucharest. Unless presented in a positive way by mass media, Romania does not have an image that would help the diaspora integrate with dignity or favorable appeal to the good spirit of American citizens. When it comes to the diaspora, we continue to see a wrong orientation as certain Romanian institutions look inward, instead of inviting American folks to immerse themselves into and eventually embrace our culture. Fewer than one in a million Americans can name two or three Romanian cities, or a great Romanian artist, scientist or statesman in the 45 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain; this is cultural self-genocide!

Make America SEE US!

In all three circumstances, it is thought that Bucharest could have done more to position Romania as a truly valuable partner, making the country relevant and interesting to Americans. In fact, given Romania’s geographical proximity and historical context, our country could have served as advisors to help stop the Ukrainian conflict at the beginning or currently as mediators between opposing parties.

Even state institutions, such as Romanian Diplomacy, lack sustenance from a coherent national and foreign strategy: Without a vision, there are no plans; without plans, there is no stability; and without stability, there is no valuable and trustworthy knowledge from which America can discover Romanian value.

As Romania’s entrance to the Visa Waiver Program will be voted on in November in the American Congress, the final push is up to us. We encourage Romanians everywhere to apply for B-1/B-2 visa renewals if their visa expired no longer than 4 years ago. It’s important to secure another 10-year B-1/B-2 visa (with a 6-month stay) before that program ends and ESTA (with a 90-day stay) begins. The online application is simple, with no interview or trip to the US Consulate required. Go to https://ro.usembassy.gov/visa-renewal-09282023/.]

As history shows, most changes are up to us if we as citizens decide to adopt the positive, forward-thinking opportunities that unite us, rather than the ones that divide us.

At the Eastern border of Europe, Romania is a strategic pillar for Western values that deserves and needs to be an ever-closer business, cultural and defense partner with the US.

The US Visa Waiver for Romanians: A 2024 Opportunity to Keep Our Friends Closer