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Representatives of Latvian travel industry don’t expect significant increase in number of travelers to US  Nov 04, 2008

Representatives of travel industry in Latvia believe that no significant increase in the number of Latvian tourists to the United States will occur after the United States waives visas for Latvia, the business information portal "" informs.

"I am not sure really whether the number of recreational trips to the United States will increase. To Latvia the United States is a distant travel destination, people do not just decide to go there the next day. On the other hand, business travelers, including state officials, go there when they have to go, visa or no visa," explained Armands Muiznieks, advisor at the Latvian Tourism Development Agency.

Latvia Tours Chairman of the Board Aigars Smiltans points out: "I do not think that the visa-free travel will mean a dramatic increase in the number of travelers to the United States. It will be easier for people to make up their minds and take the first step, buy the airline tickets, but they will nevertheless have to fill out the application, and they may be turned away."

Besides, currently there is only Uzbekistan Air offering direct flights from Riga to New York, which is not particularly popular with travelers, plus it is expensive.

At the same time, there are many opportunities to travel to the United States via a European airport, and not only to New York but also other U.S. cities, Smiltans said.

As reported, the United States will waive the visas for Latvia on November 17.

As of November 17, Latvian citizens traveling to the U.S. for business of tourism purposes, who are holders of the new-type biometric passports and who will have registered with the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), will be able to travel to the U.S. without obtaining visa.

The maximum length of stay in the U.S. without obtaining visa will be 90 days, therefore also the date when a person leaves the U.S. will be registered.

Previously, U.S. Embassy in Latvia Consul Stephen Fram explained that tourism trips to the U.S. are meant as individual journeys, including visiting family members. Business trips are meant as traveling to the U.S. with the purpose to meet business partners or to participate in entrepreneurs' conferences.

In order to apply for ESTA permission, travelers have to register at the website "" and to fill in an on-line application. ESTA permission is an obligatory prerequisite before traveling to the U.S.. Also children, regardless of age, have to receive separate ESTA confirmation.

In order to fill in ESTA application, travelers have to provide their biometric data, name, surname, date of birth and passport details, as well as travel details, such as flight number and address of the destination in the U.S., if known.

The applicants will also have to reply to questions regarding contagious diseases they might have, about having been arrested or sentenced for specific crimes, as well as will have to inform about previous U.S. visa refusal or deportation from the country if they have experienced any.

It will be possible to apply for ESTA at any time, however, in order to facilitate the process of receiving ESTA permission, it is suggested to register at least 72 hours prior to departure from Latvia. In case the address of the applicant's destination in the U.S. or his/her travel itinerary changes, the applicant will have the option to update this information at ESTA Website.

ESTA application is free of charge, it is sent and received electronically.

However, it had to be noted that receiving ESTA confirmation does not give 100% guarantee that the person will be allowed to enter the U.S.. In any case U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers decide on allowing travelers to pass through the national border checks.

If a person's ESTA application is rejected, it is still possible to submit a visa application at the U.S. Embassy. Also the airlines, which effectuate flights to the U.S., will have information about travelers' ESTA confirmation – if there is none, the traveler will not be permitted to board the airplane. When arriving in a U.S. airport, electronic confirmation will be checked once again and person's fingerprints will be taken, after which the responsible officials will decide whether the person can be granted entry into the U.S..

Biometric passports will be required to travel to the U.S., but also Latvian passports issued between November 20, 2007 and September 15, 2008, which do not include passport holder's fingerprints, will be valid. The old-type Latvian citizens' passports, issued between July 1, 2002 and November 19, 2007, will be valid for traveling to the U.S. only together with a U.S. visa.

As reported, on October 17, George Bush announced rescinding visa requirements for citizens of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

Representatives of Latvian travel industry don’t expect significant increase in number of travelers to US
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