Visa Waiver Legislation Passes Senate
To Members and Friends of the Polish
American Congress and of the Polish American Community:
PAC Washington D.C., March 14 - Yesterday the U.S. Senate passed,
by a vote of 60 to 38, the bill S. 4 – "Improving America's Security by
Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of
This is very important legislation for the American Polonia as the bill
includes a provision that would allow Poland to become a pilot country
in the Visa Waiver Program.
There was almost no discussion on the provision, except for an amendment
offered by Senator Diane Feinstein (S. Amdt. 275) in which she proposed
that the country's participation be conditioned on the rates of refusal
rate (less than 10 percent)and overstays. (For details please see the
announcements issued by the Offices of Senators Voinovich and Mikulski.
For your convenience we included their full texts at the end of this
During the last weeks, the Polish American Congress has been asking its
members and friends to contact their Senators and urge them to vote in
favor of this legislation and to retain the important provision in the
text of S.4. We take this occasion to thank all those individuals who
have joined in support of this legislation. However, even though success
is near, it is not the end of Polonia's efforts to ensure that the
legislation is signed into the law.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an equivalent bill (H.R. 1)
very early in the session - on January 9, 2007. However, since the House
version of the bill is significantly different from the Senate bill--for
example it does not include the VWP provision--selected members of the
U.S. Congress from both houses will have to meet in a conference
committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills.
Neither date nor composition of the committee are known as yet. As soon
as the list of participants, both in the House and in the Senate,
becomes available, the Polish American Congress will instantly issue an
action alert and request your assistance.
For us, the Polish Americans, it will be another important opportunity
to ensure that the VWP provision is not removed from the legislation.
Members and Friends of the Polish American community will need to again
raise their voices in support of this important legislation.
From the Office of Sen. George Voinovitch (R-OH)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contacts: Chris Paulitz or Garrette Silverman
March 13, 2007
SEN. VOINOVICH’S VISA WAIVER LEGISLATION PASSES SENATE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the full Senate voted for passage of S. 4, the
Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations
of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The bill includes an amendment
authored by U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) that extends
visa-free travel privileges to our allies in the Global War on Terror.
The amendment, called the Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership
Act of 2007, will improve cooperation with key allies while
strengthening U.S. national security interests and promoting U.S.
economic competitiveness. The bill was passed by a vote of 60 to 38.
“This is wonderful news for the Unites States and its allies,” Sen.
Voinovich said. “I strongly believe we must maintain strong relations
with our friends who are helping us fight the Global War on Terror. This
legislation will improve both our national and economic security while
helping to solidify relationships and improve good will toward the
United States for years to come.”
Sen. Voinovich’s amendment authorizes the Department of Homeland
Security, in consultation with the Department of State, to expand the
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to countries that support the United States
and are prepared to do everything in their power to help keep terrorists
from crossing our borders. Countries would be eligible to participate in
the program only after the executive branch certifies that they do not
pose a security or law enforcement threat to the United States.
The legislation would make the travel security standards and passport
policies safer than they would otherwise be for participating countries.
Security requirements for participation include biometric passports,
strict passenger screening through an e-travel authorization system,
passenger information exchanges, strict reporting of lost or stolen
passports, airport and baggage security and agreements for home country
repatriation of any visitors who violate U.S. laws. The provision will
also require the Department of Homeland Security to monitor when VWP
participants exit the country and improve procedures for measuring any
potential overstays, to ensure compliance with the program.
“Our current visa policy is discouraging hundreds of thousands of
peaceful and well-meaning people from visiting the United States for
business and pleasure,” Sen. Voinovich said. “By severely limiting
legitimate travel to the United States, we are dampening international
good will and losing economic opportunities totaling millions of
“In addition to promoting U.S. national security interests, this
legislation will increase business ties and tourism, benefiting our
economy and competitiveness for years to come. This is a smart move that
will advance America’s strategic interests.”
The VWP was established in 1986 to improve relations with U.S. allies
and benefit the U.S. economy. The program permits nationals from
selected countries to enter the United States for tourism or business
without a visa for up to 90 days. Currently, 27 countries participate in
Although numerous countries have expressed a desire to participate in
the VWP, and a willingness to cooperate with the necessary security
requirements, no new countries have been admitted since 1999. President
Bush recently called on Congress to expand the VWP to deserving nations
and has previously identified 13 “Road Map” countries as potential
candidates for future participation. These include Bulgaria, Cyprus,
Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
Poland, Romania, Slovakia and South Korea.
From the Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2007
CONTACT: Melissa Schwartz
MIKULSKI SAYS SENATE PASSAGE OF VISA WAIVER PROGRAM EASES PATH FOR
"The United States is blessed with few allies as stalwart as Poland."
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today applauded
the Senate's passage of the Improving America's Security Act of 2007
(S.4), which includes her proposal with Senator George V. Voinovich
(R-Ohio) that would authorize an expansion of the Visa Waiver Program
"I have fought for years to expand the VWP so our allies can visit
family and conduct business in the United States without standing in
line to get a visa," said Senator Mikulski. "We know that our borders
will be no less secure because of these visitors. But we know that our
alliances will be more secure because of this legislation."
As a condition for program participation, all participants would
implement enhanced travel security requirements, negotiate new
agreements on counterterrorism cooperation, and demonstrate their close
cooperation with the United States in the Global War on Terror.
The bill also includes an amendment by Senator Dianne Feinstein
(D-Calif.) that stipulates that countries applying to the VWP must
either have a visa refusal rate below 10 percent (up from the current
requirement of 3 percent) or their rate of visitors overstaying their
visit must be below the cap that would be set by the Departments of
Homeland Security and State. A visa refusal rate refers to the
percentage of applicants refused visas. Poland's visa refusal rate has
been an obstacle for its inclusion, but the overstay rate proposal
offers a new alternative for inclusion.
Senator Mikulski has fought - and introduced several bipartisan
proposals - to have Poland added to the VWP, citing Poland's importance
as a close U.S. ally. Polish troops have been fighting alongside
American troops since the start of the War in Iraq, with nearly 1,000
Polish troops still on the ground.
"The United States is blessed with few allies as stalwart as Poland. But
we tell a grandmother in Gdansk she needs a visa to visit her
grandchildren in America," said Senator Mikulski. "Poland is a NATO ally
and a member of the European Union. But America's visa policy still
treats Poland as a second-class citizen."
The VWP was established in 1986 as a pilot program to promote better
relations with U.S. allies. Currently, 27 countries participate in the
VWP. Statutory requirements for program participation include criteria
concerning immigration patterns, security and law enforcement,
reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S. citizens, as well as passports that