Mikulski Announces Homeland Security
Legislation Includes A Visa Waiver Change
Provision would provide Visa Waiver path for Poland and other key allies
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 24, 2015) – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Homeland Security spending bill includes language that will make it easier for Poland to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The bill was ordered reported by the Full Committee.
“Poland has been a steadfast and true ally. A grandmother from Gdansk shouldn’t need a visa to visit her grandkids in Baltimore,” said Senator Mikulski, Co-Chair of the Senate Caucus on Poland. “I’ll continue to fight to ensure that we expand this important program in a way that keeps our borders secure while allowing travelers who want nothing other than to see family, conduct business, or tour our great country to do so without going through a long and expensive process.”
The provision included in the spending bill waives the requirement that Poland maintain a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate of less than three percent. Poland, which has seen a downtrend in its refusal rate in recent years, would still need to comply with all other requirements of the VWP.
Senator Mikulski has long been an advocate for enhancing the VWP. Earlier this month, Senator Mikulski and Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill) introduced the Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act which would require applicant countries to maintain an average non-immigrant visa overstay rate not greater than three percent while giving the Secretary of Homeland Security flexibility to waive this requirement in cases where a country’s participation does not pose a threat to law enforcement, security, or immigration laws under the condition that the applicant country is cooperating fully with the U.S. in fighting terrorism. It would authorize the Secretary to place a member country on probation if their overstay rate exceeds three percent, sending a strong message to current program members that the United States is serious about ensuring the VWP is a strong component of our security.
Currently, citizens of 38 nations around the world 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 Outdated requirements exclude Poland, a strong democratic ally, from the VWP despite allowing U.S. tourists to travel visa-free since 1991.
Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski