Congressman claims allowing Poland visa-free travel to US would pose security threat

US Republican Congressman Lamar Smith has said that he believes expanding the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to include Poland could make it easier for terrorists to come to the US. Smith, the chairman of the US House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee, said that the VWP is a "loophole for entry by those who may wish to do us harm."

"We know that terrorists have used the VWP to their benefit. Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, 'shoebomber' Richard Reid and 1993 World Trade Center conspirator Ahmed Ajaj all entered or attempted to enter the US through this program," he added.

Currently, legislation is pending in Congress to decide if the US will, in fact, allow Poland to become part of the Visa Waiver Program. It was introduced by US Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. who is hoping that easier US visit visa regulations will lead to closer US-Poland relations.

Smith also pointed out that the US Government Accountability Office had published a report revealing that half of the countries currently part of the VWP may not have met security requirements mandated by the US Congress.

The US Visa Waiver Program allows people in participating countries to visit the US without applying for a visitor visa, making it easier for citizens to visit family, study, and vacation in the US. Poland is among the few European Union countries left out of the US visa waiver program that allows people to travel to the US up to 90 days without a visa. Countries currently part of the visa waiver program include Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, and France.

Citizens of countries under the visa waiver program are also required to apply for the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. You will need to submit the ESTA if:
  • You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
  • You are currently not in possession of a visitor's visa.
  • Your travel is for 90 days or less.
  • You plan to travel to the US for business or pleasure.
"Since the end of the Cold War, Poland has become one of the United States' strongest allies, and it makes sense that we should change the law governing visa waivers to reflect the world we live in today," said Pascall. "People from the nations with which we have the best diplomatic relationships ought to have fewer impediments to visiting and doing business in the United States. That's why I am supporting this legislation."

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