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US visa waiver for Poles ‘closer than ever’

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 07.06.2013 10:11
On returning from a trip to Washington DC, Poland’s foreign minister Radek Sikorski has said that Poles are close to being able to travel to the US without visas.

photo - sxc.hu

In May, a vote by the US Senate Judiciary Committee on a new immigration bill cleared another hurdle for Poles finally being included in the Visa Waiver Programme and a debate at a session of the full Senate on the issue will take place in June.

"We are closer than ever, I talked about this in the US Senate, where they assured me the bill will pass,” Minister Sikorski told the TVP broadcaster.

“It will be harder [to pass the bill through] the House of Representatives, however, where immigration issues are the subject of political controversy. I'll follow this closely," Sikorski added.

The Polish American Leadership Political Action Committee (PAL-PAC) of legislators launched a petition in Washington on Thursday calling for “the 20 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the 40 members of the House Judiciary Committee to move forward legislation that will allow the Republic of Poland to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).”

“Over eleven years ago when the United States was faced with a serious threat of global terrorism, Poland was quick to join the Allied Coalition to fight in Afghanistan and later Iraq without any preconditions,” says the petition.

“Poland currently has the fifth largest troop contribution in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. To date, 23 Polish soldiers died in Iraq and 36 Polish soldiers have given their lives in the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan in an effort to make the region more stable and safeguard the world from terrorism," the lawmakers write.

US secretary of state John Kerry said after a meeting with Minisyer Sikorski this week that, “President Obama supports the Visa Waiver Program. I support the Visa Waiver personally for Poland. The Administration as a whole is supportive of the language in the legislation on the Hill right now. We hope that legislation will be passed, and we expect that Poland will benefit from the implementation of the Visa Waiver Program.”

Only Poland, Bulgaria and Romania are currently the only EU nations excluded from the programme.

The one hurdle to including Poles in the programme is the still high rate of Poles who overstay their welcome in the United States passed the date when their visas expire.
Sikorski told TVP on Thursday evening that "a lot" of Poles are breaking the law in the US.

"Again, I would urge Poles not to do this,” he said.

“PAL-PAC, along with hundreds of Polish organizations, and millions of Polish Americans and Poles living here and abroad, have high expectations that under the leadership of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees will move these commonsense VWP reforms forward in the 113th Congress,” the PAL-PAC petition says. (pg)

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