US, Malaysia can work together on visa waiver programme, US envoy says

US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir speaks during an interview with Malay Mail October 3, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir speaks during an interview with Malay Mail October 3, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Oct 6 — Malaysia and the United States can work together on the latter’s visa waiver programme, especially with the country's new enhanced immigration programme, its Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir said.

She said the discussions on the US visa waiver programme for Malaysians started anew when Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin discussed this matter during a meeting with Acting US Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan recently.

She said both countries can work together on border security issues in its discussions on the visa waiver programme.

“Malaysia is working on a new immigration system, these enhancements may improve border security and I think this is an ongoing work that we can do together bilaterally and then see where we can get,” she said during an interview with Malay Mail recently.

She said there was more focus on border security, information sharing, visa vetting and security issues after Donald Trump was elected as US president.

Under the waiver programme, a citizen from specific coutries can travel to the US for up to 90 days without having to obtain any visa.

Lakhdhir admitted that no new countries have been listed under the US visa waiver programme since 2017.

“This doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity in the future,” she added.

Discussions on a visa waiver for Malaysians started back in 2013 and went on until 2016.

Lakhdhir said there were a lot of work done by her predecessor and the Malaysian government focusing on collaborative work on border security and information sharing aspects as part of the visa waiver programme.

Without the visa waiver programme, Malaysians will still need to apply for a visa to visit the US.

She said the US issues 10-year visas for eligible Malaysians and the refusal rates were only between three and four per cent.

“I can say 95 per cent or more Malaysians who apply for short term visas or tourist visas get it,” she said.

She said the student visa approval rate for Malaysians now stand at 99 per cent.

“A lot of Malaysians think that getting a US visa is difficult or that the refusal rate is high, it is actually not that complicated,” she said.

She said travel to the US is open to all Malaysians, all they needed to do was to apply for the visa early and they will possibility get 10-year visas.

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