Quigley Offers Amendment to Include Poland in the Visa Waiver Program
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2016 Homeland Security appropriations bill that would authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to admit Poland as a program country under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
“Since the end of the Cold War, Poland has become a model democracy in Eastern Europe and one of our key allies,” said Rep. Quigley. “But outdated requirements leave Poland as one of the few European nations still excluded from the Visa Waiver Program. Including Poland in the VWP would advance our security partnership, provide intelligence that helps thwart terrorist threats, increase international tourism, and provide a significant boost to our economy. It is due time that Congress step up and include Poland in the VWP.”
Currently, citizens of 37 countries, including 30 European countries, are eligible to participate in the VWP, which allows foreign visitors to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. Outdated requirements exclude Poland, a strong democratic ally, from the VWP despite allowing U.S. tourists to travel visa-free since 1991. When the Czech Republic entered the Visa Waiver Program in 2008, its temporary visitor traffic jumped by more than 17 percent. If Poland had a similar increase in traffic, it would result in an additional 11,390 visitors a year. Considering the fact that the average overseas visitor to the United States spends $4,455 per trip, this would add nearly $50 million in additional spending a year.
In 2013, the VWP was responsible for more than 19.5 million travelers, 61 percent of all overseas visitors to the United States. While visiting the U.S., these travelers generated $190 billion in total economic output for the U.S. economy and supported nearly one million good American jobs. Because of the VWP’s success, travel is our nation’s number one services export, generating a trade surplus of $75.6 billion in 2014.
Rep. Quigley has been a staunch advocate for expanding the Visa Waiver Program to Poland since his arrival to Congress in 2009. He first spearheaded bipartisan and bicameral legislation with Senator Kirk and Rep. Lipinski in 2011. In January 2012, Rep. Quigley traveled to Poland to discuss ways to further enhance the U.S.-Polish partnership, including advancing the VWP legislation, and testified before Congress on the benefits of including Poland and other diplomatic partners in the program. Most recently, Rep. Quigley introduced the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, a bipartisan effort to spur tourism, create jobs, reform outdated visa laws and increase national security.
Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District is home to approximately 100,000 citizens of Polish ancestry. More than one million Poles call the Chicago area home, the highest concentration of any city outside of Warsaw.