Malaysian netizens have been excitedly sharing this post in the past couple of days, which claimed that soon, there will be no US travel visa for Malaysians as officially announced by Malaysia’s Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
The article, dated 8th June 2016, went on to describe that it will likely be effective “in 18 months time or somewhere late 2017 or even early 2018”.
Sure, it sounds like great news because the process of applying for a tourist visa to the US is tedious, involving forms, pay slips, bank statements, employment details, and an interview at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Doing away with the travel visa also means that Malaysia will be the 38th country where its citizens would not need to apply for a tourist visa to the US for visits 90 days (3 months) or less.
The article went on to say:
Before listing out the many wonderful must-visit places in the US, popular tourist destinations such as Florida (Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, Sea World Orlando, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Universal Orlando), Las Vegas, and Los Angeles (Santa Monica, Hollywood, Universal Studios).
It then ended with, “With the announcement of the visa free entry to US for Malaysian, there will be much interest in 2017 and especially during the Matta Fair 2017 where many travelers will start to inquire about Matta travel packages to the United States and this would most definitely increase tourism arrivals to America from Malaysia.”
Excited, we quickly Googled for more information before making plans to visit Mickey Mouse and friends in Florida’s Disney World, the largest Disney park in the world. Our search landed us on this news piece from MMO, which affirmed that, yes, in 18 months, Malaysians may not need a visa to visit the US. The content is similar to that of what was written by the travel blog, explaining that the Malaysian Immigration Department has been working at upgrading its systems to implement the visa-waiver and that the waiver will start off with “officials” first, then businessmen, and finally tourists.
It convinced us that the news legit. Unfortunately, the MMO news piece is dated 5th June 2014.
This means that the visa-free travel for Malaysians to the US should be effective December 2016, not “somewhere late 2017 or even early 2018”.
On top of that, in the last known update with regards to the Visa Waiver Programme (or VWP for short), dated April 2016, the US Government has since tightened conditions in its VWP amidst security concerns following the terror attacks in Europe and Turkey. Malaysia’s application to join the VWP has now been subjected to monitoring for one year (based on the US fiscal year beginning 1st October 2016 till 31st September 2017) as regards applications from Malaysians for US visa, that had been rejected.
The percentage of rejected applications currently stood at 3.34%, exceeding the requirement of below 3% set by the US. If the percentage drops to below 3% throughout the fiscal year, only then can Malaysia participate in the programme, by as late as 2018.
Don’t get us wrong, it does sound promising especially for those of us who have never been to the US. But right now, it’s still pretty much up in the air so there’s no knowing for sure if Malaysia will ever be a part of the US’ VWP.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed though!
Meanwhile, for more information on applying for a US travel visa, feel free to contact the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur at 03-2158 5000 or e-mail them at [email protected]