WASHINGTON, DC - Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced legislation extending the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This move is part of a broader effort to ultimately extend visa waiver privileges to Poland, a country that has proven its steadfast dedication to the cause of freedom and friendship with the United States. Extending the VWP will allow for further time for development and implementation of safe and secure exit plan strategies so that the VWP can be a established as a permanent program.
"Poland is not only an indispensable ally abroad, but an important part of my own community in Illinois' 5th District," said Cong. Quigley. "Including Poland in the Visa Waiver Program would have positive security, economic, and bilateral effects, though we recognize that there are many obstacles to achieving that. In the meantime, we didn't want to see a practical stopgap expire and leave us with nothing. Rather than adhere to an all-or-nothing approach, I hope this legislation will allow us to spend time working on the Visa Waiver Program, as well as continuing to develop sophisticated exit-plan technology."
The Visa Waiver Program was modified following final passage of H.R. 1, a Bill Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The bill included a provision that allows citizens of specific countries, with approval by the Secretary of Homeland Security, to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. While many European countries are currently eligible, Poland was not included in the program due to a high visa application rejection rate. Poland’s rejection rate has fallen drastically since that time, propelling them further towards ultimate inclusion.
As one of his first acts in Congress this May, Quigley called on President Obama personally to include Poland in the VWP, citing that the move has gained wide-spread, bipartisan support in prior Congresses. The following month, Quigley spoke on the House floor to urge his colleagues to support Poland and Polish-Americans everywhere. Cong. Quigley is also a member of the Congressional Caucus on Poland.
"There are thousands of Polish-Americans in my district alone who would benefit by making it easier to have a loved one visit them, not to mention the local businesses that would benefit from tourism dollars. We owe it to a country that has stood by us, and to the people who would like to visit the United States."
Since 1999, Poland has been a valuable member of the global security community, not only as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but fighting alongside United States forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A member of the European Union since 2004, Poland repealed its own visa requirement in 1991 which allows Americans to travel to Poland without the use of a visa.
Several colleagues, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL-04) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03), have joined Quigley as original co-sponsors of the bill. More widespread support is expected as the legislation progresses.