February 2012 – On January 31st bipartisan Visa Waver reform legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, H.R.3855 and S.2046, respectively. Support for the Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act crosses state and party lines as Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) have all signed on to the bills (a full list of cosponsors of both versions of the bill is included below).
As we all know, successful legislation of this kind, and the resulting inclusion of Poland into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are long overdue. As Senator Mikulski said “A grandmother from Gdansk shouldn’t need a visa to visit her grandkids in Baltimore.”
Nonetheless, the outdated requirements that exclude Poland from the VWP still remain in effect despite U.S. tourists ability to travel visa-free to Poland since 1991. “This is an issue of fairness and equity for a longstanding friend and partner, Poland,” said Rep. Quigley. “Expansion of the Visa Waiver Program will improve our international diplomatic relationships, create jobs, stimulate the economy and strengthen national security. It’s time to expand outdated travel standards to include our proven allies.”
Last year the very same members of Congress introduced similar bills that, for various reasons, never faced a vote and never left the committees to which they were referred.
The new and improved bills introduced last week – a direct result of close cooperation between congressional offices and the Administration – address the flaws of the 2011 versions and broaden the scope of the legislation, making the provisions presented in H.R.3855 and S.2046, stronger and more feasible.
Specifically, this new legislation introduces basic, dual qualifying criteria for an aspiring country’s membership in the Visa Waver Program: a low overstay rate of three percent or less, as well as a three percent refusal rate. The refusal rate criterion, however, may then be increased from the required three percent to ten percent, on a country-by-country basis, where the aspriring country’s participation in the Program does not pose a threat to security, law enforcement or immigration laws. Furthermore, the applicant country would need to be cooperating with the U.S. in
fighting terrorism, as evaluated and recommended by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The legislation also improves the way in which the refusal rate is calculated. According to proposed bills, the rate will no longer be calculated according to number of applications received but by the number of applicants. Meaning that the refusal rate will not be increased by those applicants that apply on multiple occasions and are continually refused a visa.
Here at the Polish American Congress (PAC), we strongly believe that, if passed and signed into the law, the legislation will finally allow for the inclusion of Poland into the Visa Waiver Program. Many Polish American
organizations, including the PAC, and members of Polonia community have been working hard to make this happen for years. Now we need to work together again in one more organized action. The day when all Polish citizens can visit their American relatives and friends without the hassle and cost of obtaining a tourist visa may be in the near future!
However, this will not happen without a strong and coordinated effort by the Polish-American community and its allies.
Take action now!
We ask the Leaders, Members and Friends of the Polish American community to make their best effort and contact by phone, letters, and the Internet the Congressional delegations of their respective states, in particular:
1. Please strongly urge your Representative and Senators to support the bill by becoming its co-sponsor (if they are not already),
2. Urge your Representative and Senators to vote for the passage of the bill when it comes for a vote,
3. Make sure to express your gratitude to those Legislators from your state who already showed their support and signed up as bill’s co-sponsors. They would like to hear from you and will appreciate your support, AND
4. Show your support for the H.R.3855 bill at POPVOX (https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/hr3855). POPVOX is an
online platform that allows individuals and organizations to make their voice heard in connection to a specific legislative initiative or campaign. Even if you signed the Petition by the Polish American Congress last year, please make sure to show your support again for the recently introduced H.R.3855. It is a different piece of legislation!
BILL IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
H.R. 3855: Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Quigley [D-IL] (introduced 1/31/2012)
Cosponsors (As of February 6, 2012)
Rep. Gary L. Ackerman [NY-5]
Rep. Dan Burton [IN-5]
Rep. Steve Chabot [OH-1]
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart [FL-21]
Rep. Robert J. Dold [IL-10]
Rep. Michael G. Grimm [NY-13]
Rep. Brian Higgins [NY-27]
Rep. Marcy Kaptur [OH-9]
Rep. Adam Kinzinger [IL-11]
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich [OH-10]
Rep. Daniel Lipinski [IL-3]
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks [NY-6]
Rep. Christopher S. Murphy [CT-5]
Rep. David Rivera [FL-25]
Rep. Ileana Lehtinen [FL-18]
Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky [IL-9]
Rep. Aaron Schock [IL-18]
Rep. John Shimkus [IL-19]
Rep. Edolphus Towns [NY-10]
Latest Action: (1/31/2012) Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
BILL IN THE U.S. SENATE:
S.2046: Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act
Sponsor: Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski [D-MD] Sen. Mark S. Kirk [R-IL] (introduced 1/31/2012)
Cosponsors (As of February 6, 2012)
Senator Mark Begich [AK]
Senator Roy Blunt [MO]
Senator Sherrod Brown [OH]
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin [MD]
Senator Mark S. Kirk [IL]
Senator Amy Klobuchar [MN]
Latest Action: 1/31/2012 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Let your Member of Congress know that you, and voters like you, support Poland’s inclusion in the Visa Waver Program!
Also, please be sure to pass along this information to anyone interested in this important issue and encourage him or
her to actively support the legislation!
WHERE TO FIND MORE INFORMATION:
About the bill: http://thomas.loc.gov and enter bill number: H.R.3855 or S.2046
About your Representatives: www.house.gov or by calling (202) 224-3121
About your Senators: www.senate.gov or by calling (202) 224-3121
Thank you again for your continuing support!
Polish American Congress
1612 K Street NW, Suite 410
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202) 296-6955
Fax: (202) 835-1565