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Features & Columns

Poland Officially Joins Visa Waiver Program, Poles Can Travel to the U.S. Visa-Free

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Poland Officially Joins Visa Waiver Program, Poles Can Travel to the U.S. Visa-Free

2019-11-11 16:44:461 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Chanel Adams,  Image: Warsaw, Poland: Wikimedia Commons

Poles can finally travel to the U.S. without a visa. This comes after several decades of waiting. As of Monday, Nov. 11, Poland is part of the Visa Waiver program, which means that Polish citizens can travel visa-free to the U.S.

This news comes after Poland celebrates its Independence Day. As of Monday, Poles can spend up to 90 days in the U.S. without needing a visa.

Poland is the last Schengen country to qualify for the Visa Waiver program. It’s also one of the first countries to enter this travel scheme in the past five years.

The country has also become the 39th nation to be a part of the program. Visa-free means that Poles will be required to enter information into an online registry system, but they will no longer have to stand in line to speak with the consul.

And the acceptance fee is now $14 from the original $160 fee. This decision was made to boost business and tourism from Poland, and to strengthen ties between the two countries.

President Andrzej Duda revealead that it was “important and good news” for the 37 million residents of Poland and the 10 million Poles who currently reside in the U.S., according to The New York Times.

According to the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, Duda told her that he feels a sense of “national pride.” Duda was happy that President Donald Trump allowed Poland into the Visa Waiver Program.

Poland has been fighting for inclusion in the program since the early 90s following the end of communism. 

It’s kind of symbolic considering the day. However, some Poles worry that this administrative decision comes with strings attached.

For nearly 20 years, Poles have wondered when they would ever join the waiver-free program. It started in 1991 when Poland removed visa requirements for Americans.

Even though the U.S. didn’t return the favor, Polish politicians still had a close relationship with the White House. In order to qualify for the waiver program, the qualifying country needs to have a refusal rate of 3% or less.

Back in 2006, Poland’s refusal rate was over 25%. However, Poland was very supportive of the U.S., including the Iraq War. Some felt that the country should be treated the same as the other European allies.

Contrary to popular belief, Poles are supportive of Americans. In fact, they’re “pro-American,” according to Marcin Zaborowski, a senior associate at Visegrad Insight, told Al Jazeera.

America obviously influences Poland’s political decisions, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They even supported America with the United Nations.

According to Senator Jan Maria Jackowski, Poles always felt like “second-class people” even though they had “very good relations with the U.S.” ever since the 18th century.

The news of Poland allowed in this scheme came days before the October parliamentary ballot in which the Law and Justice (PiS) party was re-elected.

Some are wondering if this decision comes with a hefty price. It’s obvious that the timing of the announcement was to support the current political climate in Poland, according to Zaborowski.

"In exchange for the visas, which have little practical meaning, we were willing to offer to buy F-35 planes, which we do not need at all,” he revealed.

In addition, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Poland back in September. Poland also removed its original plans for a digital tax and has even signed a cooperation agreement on 5G technology.

Some believe that the visa decision could help with Trump’s campaign. Despite the impeachment inquiry that’s taking place in the U.S., Trump still qualifies for re-election next year.

He’s well aware that every vote is important to him. He wants to attract the Polish vote on U.S. soil.

As previously stated, there are currently 10 million Poles in the U.S. Most of them reside in three of Trump’s key states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump won all three states during the 2016 election.

However, this has been history in the making. It’s a victory for Poles who are interested in visiting the U.S.

No longer do Poles have to worry about the strict visa requirements. But does it come with a price? Only time will tell as relations improve between the two countries.

Twenty-three million travelers traveled to the U.S. via the Visa Waiver Program in 2017. The program has also generated $190 billion and has created 1 million jobs.

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