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U.S. Polish Ambassador ‘Optimistic’
On Visa Waiver Program

18.04.2013 – Poland’s ambassador to the US has told Polish Radio he is optimistic that, as part of progress in immigration reform, Poles will finally included in the US Visa Waiver Programme.

On the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, drafted by a bipartisan commission in the House of Representatives, Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf said: “We have a good start. This is an initiative that has a chance of success. Our optimism grows.”

Ambassador Schnepf had “candid” talks with committee member, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida (Rep) on April 16 to discuss the issue.

The visa waiver programme allows citizens to travel for up to 90 days around the US without needing a visa. Poland is one of only four EU member states, including Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania, still not on VWP.

President Barack Obama has said he would like to see Poland included in the programme but obstacles remain, says the ambassador.

“[Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski] Minister is more sceptical than I am but said he wanted to lose this bet,” the ambassador told Polish Radio.

Draft legislation was out before the House of Representatives in February, allowing countries to be added if their visa overstay rate is below 3 percent, as long as their visa refusal rate is below 10 percent.

Poland’s visa refusal rate for fiscal year 2012 was 9.3 percent, making the country eligible to join.

Resistance to reform the waiver programme and immigration reform in general could have been bolstered, however, by this week’s Boston Marathon bombing, as speculation continues as to who placed the two bombs near the finishing line on Monday, killing three and injuring over 170.

“We need to take a look at the visa waiver program also, and wonder what we’re doing,” Republican Steve King (R-Iowa) said of the new immigration reform imitative after the bombings.

“If we can’t background check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we’re going to background check 11 to 20 million people from who knows where,” he said this week. (pg)

– Polskie Radio