Visa Waiver For Poland Discussed in Congress

Kosciuszko Foundation President Storozynski’s statement to Judiciary Committee

Congressman Mike Quigley, sponsor of legislation to include Poland in the Visa Waiver Program, today testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. Congressman Quigley’s office asked Kosciuszko Foundation President Alex Storozynski for a letter to present a letter during the hearing to Chairman Lamar Smith. Below is the text of that letter.
Dear Congressman Smith,
Thank you for allowing representatives of the ten million Polish-Americans to express their opinions on the Visa Waiver Program, (VWP). For too long, the United States has treated our friends and families in Poland as second class citizens requiring them to pay hefty fees to apply for visas to visit this country, while Europeans from other countries travel here without visas.
American Consulates in Poland deny the same visa applicants over and over, thus driving up the visa refusal rate to an artificially high level. I personally know many educated and professional people in Poland, who could easily get visas, but are boycotting the United States and instead spend their tourist and shopping dollars in countries where they are welcome. Poland is part of the “Schengen Area” of 25 European nations that allows passport-free travel across borders.

Because Poland is a productive member of NATO and the European Union, its citizens do not need to come to the United States to find work. In fact, during the current economic crisis in Europe, Poland has been a shining example of how to keep its economy moving because it does not have the debt problems of the Eurozone. There is no real empirical evidence showing that Poles overstay their welcome in the United States at levels higher than countries such as Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and other nations that have been included in the VWP.
Poland’s exclusion from the VWP is an embarrassment for Congress. Poland is one of America’s greatest allies and has fought for freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan and always supports the United States. Poles pose no terrorist threat to America, and allowing Poles to visit the United States as tourists would encourage international trade and pump tourism dollars into our economy. By refusing visa free travel for Poles, the United States is pushing away one of its closest allies. Allowing Poles to travel without visas will add to our security and enhance law enforcement and crime-fighting efforts through data-sharing agreements between our respective countries. It is high time to include Poland in the Visa Waiver Program
Sincerely,
Alex Storozynski
President & Executive Director
Quigley Calls for Poland’s Inclusion in Visa Waiver Program PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 15:54
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement in favor of expanding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to include Poland and other U.S. allies.

“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.”

Expansion of the VWP would bring increased revenue to the travel industry at a time when America’s economy needs it most. In 2008, the countries in the VWP generated more than 16 million visits to the U.S., accounting for 65 percent of all overseas arrivals that year.  VWP travelers spent more than 51 billion dollars in the U.S. , which generated an estimated 512,000 jobs, 13 billion dollars in payroll and 7.8 billion dollars in taxes for the U.S. economy.

“This nation must keep its doors open.  Foreign travelers who come to America gain an understanding of what makes America great, and they share these positive experiences with their neighbors,” said Rep. Quigley. 

PHOTO: Rep. Quigley testifies before Congress in favor of expanding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to include Poland and other U.S. allies.

visawaiver

Poland is a member of both the EU and NATO but remains one of the few major democratic allies excluded from the VWP.  The VWP enables citizens of 36 countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a non-immigrant visitor visa.  The program was established to eliminate unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulate the tourism industry and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other, high risk areas.  Today’s hearing marks the first House Judiciary Committee hearing solely dedicated to the issue in nearly 10 years. 

Quigley introduced legislation to expand the Visa Waiver Program to include Poland that has been endorsed by President Obama and has worked tirelessly to promote Polish-American relations during his two terms in Congress.  In 2010, he traveled to Poland and attended a conference in Krakow commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Community of Democracies.

Illinois’ 5th Congressional District is home to more than 100,000 citizens of Polish ancestry.  More than 1 million Poles call Chicago home, making it the highest concentration of Poles of any city outside of Warsaw. 

Rep. Quigley is currently serving his second term in the House of Representatives, where he sits on the House Committees on the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform.  He is also the Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services, and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs.

http://quigley.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=595:quigley-calls-for-polands-inclusion-in-visa-waiver-program&catid=19:2011-press-releases

Full text of Congressman Quigley’s testimony is at

http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Quigley%2012072011.pdf

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