FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 2, 2012
SCHUMER INTRODUCES BILL TO MAKE POLAND ELIGIBLE FOR VISA WAIVER PROGRAM – MEASURE RECEIVES PRAISE FROM WESTERN NY POLISH LEADERS
Schumer’s Legislation, the “JOLT” Act –Will Reform Outdated Visa Laws to Allow Increased Business and Leisure Travel from Countries Like Poland
Increased Business and Leisure Travel from Poland Will be A Win-Win for Polish Visitors, Western NY and the U.S. Economy
Schumer: Polish Citizens Fight Alongside Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq, But Can’t Visit Western NY Like Other European Allies – Time to Change That
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that he was pushing to make Poland eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) as part of his “JOLT” Act legislation – Jobs Originated Through Launching Travel – that will reform outdated visa laws to cut through red tape that has caused a lag in foreign travel to the U.S. Currently, Poland is the only member of the 25-country euro-zone area not able to travel to the United States under the US VWP, which means that all Polish nationals must apply for tourist visas before visiting the United States – a time-consuming, uncertain, and expensive process that discourages travel to the United States.
“Poland is one of our closest and best allies and the Polish American community in America is vast and vibrant. Finally permitting Poland to enter the visa waiver program is not only the right thing to do, it will also boost our economy. With Polish citizens fighting side by side with soldiers in Afghanistan, it boggles the mind that they can’t even visit the United States without a visa,” said Schumer. “It’s about time that Poland becomes a member of the visa waiver program, and I am committed to getting this legislation passed before the NATO summit.”
“The Polish American Congress has been working for years to add Poland to the Visa Waiver Program. With the introduction of this legislation by Senator Schumer our efforts take a big step forward. Less paperwork and fair treatment for Polish visitors will lead to more tourists coming to our great western New York Polish-American community and partaking in all our Polish-American events. Furthermore it will help make it easier for families with relatives in both countries to visit one another,” said Richard Solecki, President of the Polish-American Congress WNY Division.
"I applaud Senator Schumer for introducing legislation that will make travel from Poland to the US easier," Assemblyman Gabryszak said. "The district I represent has a strong history of Polish heritage and tradition. Many of my constituents still have family in Poland, this is great news for those who may have wanted to visit, but couldn't in the past because of the old policy."
“This legislation is a tremendous step forward for the Polish Community. It will ensure that visitors from Poland are treated fairly and equally. This effort by Senator Schumer will help enhance our already strong western New York Polish community,” said Joe Rozen former president of Dunkirk’s Dom Polski club, and current president of the Northern Chautauqua Clubs Association.
“As a member of the Polish-American community I am excited that Senator Schumer has introduced this legislation. It will make visiting the United States from Poland less complicated and will ultimately help our local tourism industry. Dunkirk has a long and proud Polish heritage and community and this legislation will help enhance that tradition” said Dunkirk Mayor AJ Dolce.
The VWP gives citizens of selected countries the ability to travel to the US under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization program (ESTA), rather than go through the more lengthy and complicated US Tourist Visa application process. Poland has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. over the past two decades on issues that include deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, willingness to serve as a forward outpost for missile defense shield, and being a reliable voice on behalf of the trans-Atlantic partnership in European Union councils.
This legislation amends the Immigration and Nationality Act regarding the visa waiver program to: (1) authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Secretary of State, to designate program countries; (2) adjust the criteria for visa refusal rates to permit entry into the program if a country has a low visa overstay rate; (3) set a maximum 3% visa overstay rate for program countries; and (4) revise probationary status and program termination provisions. It also directs the Comptroller General to review the Secretary of DHS's methods for tracking aliens entering and exiting the United States and for detecting visa overstays. These revisions would likely lead to Poland’s admission into the VWP.
While the global travel market is expected to double over the next decade, the United States’ market share of this industry has declined by 5% since the 2000. The JOLT Act is aimed at reversing that trend and recapturing the United States’ historic share of worldwide overseas travel, which could add nearly $100 billion to the economy over the next decade and create nearly 700,000 more American jobs. If Poland gained entry to VWP and saw a similar increase, the additional visitors to the United States would create $181 million in new spending and support 1,500 new jobs.