The U.S. government and nations wishing to be part of the Visa Waiver Program work together to develop "road maps" consisting of steps leading to eligibility. When a country fulfils the requirements of the road map, it is nominated for Visa Waiver Program participation. Typically, a country selected for the Visa Waiver Program will be considered developed, with a Human Development Index rating that is very high, and a high-income economy. The country's immigration and security practices must also pass an evaluation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. No standard timeline exists for Visa Waiver Program entry approval or rejection after a country has been nominated.
Countries that want to join (or rejoin) the Visa Waiver Program are called "roadmap countries". The United States Department of State began discussing Visa Waiver Program admission with roadmap countries in 2005. There were 19 original roadmap countries; 10 of them have joined the Visa Waiver Program, but the following countries still have roadmap status: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Israel, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.
Any one of several factors may cause a Visa Waiver Program country to be demoted to roadmap status. These include an increased probability that its citizens will stay in the U.S. beyond the 90-day limit, engage in gainful employment without a permit, or otherwise violate restrictions set by the Visa Waiver Program. Both Argentina (in 2002) and Uruguay (in 2003) lost Visa Waiver Program status as a result of the separate financial crisis that each country was going through. The U.S. government was concerned that citizens of those countries might stay beyond the time allotted for their visits or emigrate in large numbers. This is consistent with the common belief that travelers from countries that have stable economic and political systems will have very little reason to violate the terms of their Visas. U.S. consulates give such concerns considerable weight when issuing Visas.
VWP eligibility is not determined by economic and political conditions alone. The reason why Israel continues to have roadmap status is, according to some observers, because it subjects Palestinian-Americans to very strict examination when they travel to Israel, in violation of the mutuality requirement of the VWP.
The EU and the U.S. are in negotiations regarding VWP admission for Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania, all of which have roadmap status, and are the only EU countries not in the VWP (with the exception of Croatia, which was admitted to the EU very recently). The government of Bulgaria said in November of 2014 that it would not ratify the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership unless the U.S. removed the requirement that Bulgarian citizens must have Visas to travel to the U.S.
The newest country that joined the VWP is Poland that came in November 2019.