BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THERE is good news for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizens travelling to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) that they will get visa-free access to the United States territories.
In a recent meeting with regional tourism officials at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) State of the Industry Conference held in Fort-de-France, Martinique from October 16-18, Governor John de Jongh of the USVI has reiterated that the USVI wants to cooperate in the movement of Caricom nationals throughout the region by providing them with visa-free access for sporting events, medical services and general tourism.
Earlier this year, Governor de Jongh said that he had met and spoken with Democratic Senator Ronald Wyden from Oregon to institute a special visa waiver for citizens of CARICOM.
Governor de Jongh said that the proposal has received support in the US House of Representatives, the Senate and the Department of Homeland Security.
He has however given no timeline for its implementation.
"After a discussion and explanation on its importance, Senator Wyden agreed to sponsor an amendment to the immigration bill currently before Congress that would grant special visa waivers to residents of the 15 countries in the Caribbean Community for trips to the US Virgin Islands. The waivers would be specifically for individuals who are travelling for sporting events, medical services and general tourism,” Governor de Jongh said.
“We fully believe that such a change would broaden our reach into neighbouring Caribbean markets. The territory's sporting events are growing in popularity and prestige, especially for competitions in volleyball, track, tennis, swimming and sailing. An amendment to the immigration bill would allow for easier travel for athletes, as well as for individuals seeking top-notch medical care or just looking for a great place for a vacation that is close to home," he added.
In 2009, Leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) welcomed Governor de Jongh to the 49th meeting of OECS Heads of Government held in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
At that meeting, a draft Memorandum of Understanding highlighted areas of collaboration between the Governor’s office and the OECS such as educational opportunities, tourism, environment, historical preservation and archives and cooperation in emergency management.
Many Caribbean nationals who have US visas travel to the USVI each year for recreational and business purposes. Others would also like to visit the territories but do not have visas.