Newspaper article Roll Call

Include Poland in the Visa Waiver Program | Commentary

Newspaper article Roll Call

Include Poland in the Visa Waiver Program | Commentary

Article excerpt

Poland is America's strongest ally in Central Europe. Russia's incursion into Ukraine, and its aggressive stance towards the region generally, makes America's alliance relationships in the region more important than ever. To strengthen it's relationship with Poland at this crucial time, America should include it in the Visa Waiver Program.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was created in 1986 to allow visa- free travel to the United States for up to 90 days. Right now, the VWP has 38 members, including most of US major European allies and many NATO member countries. Poland, a NATO member since 1999 and staunch U.S. ally and partner in U.S. defense initiatives in Europe, is not a VWP member. It should be.

Including Poland in the VWP will improve the security relationship between the U.S. and Poland while strengthening the economies of both countries. The U.S. Travel Association reports that in 2014, more than 20.3 million travelers (60 percent of all overseas visitors) arrived to the U.S. through the VWP, and generated $190 billion in economic output in the United States.

Several bipartisan efforts to add Poland to the VWP membership have been introduced in the past several Congressional sessions. This year, Reps. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Mike Quigley, D-Ill., introduced the Jobs Originated Through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. The bill garnered 87 co-sponsors from both parties, showing the wide base of bipartisan support for VWP reform in Congress. Heck and Quigley argued that the JOLT Act would "bring more international travelers and tourists to destinations around our country and create(s) jobs" and "(strengthen) our relationships with important allies like Poland."

Heck and Quigley are correct to argue that Poland's inclusion in VWP would have both strategic and economic benefits. In addition to its strong alliance with the U.S., Poland has a robust economy. Poland's GDP continued to grow through the financial crisis of 2008. In 2009, at the high point of the crisis, the GDP of the European Union as a whole dropped by 4.5 percent, while Polish GDP increased by 1.6 percent. Poland's growth makes the argument that Polish citizens would use VWP to immigrate to the US for economic reasons harder to believe. …

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