updated 10/28/2008 3:45:44 PM ET 2008-10-28T19:45:44

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says seven countries are ready to begin visa-free travel to the U.S. on Nov. 17.

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Chertoff, on an official visit Tuesday in Budapest, says the long-awaited decision is akin to "sweeping away the last dust of the Iron Curtain."

U.S. President George W. Bush announced on Oct. 17 that Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and South Korea would be added to the U.S. visa waiver program.

All seven countries have had to meet several requirements to join the visa-waiver program such as issuing hard-to-forge passports and upgrading anti-terrorist laws.

Participants using the program will have to register online before traveling.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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