Trump pushes visa waiver program for Poland

If fully approved, the move will allow Polish nationals to travel to the U.S. without a visa.

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President Donald Trump in 2018.

AP file photo

Addressing an issue of importance to Chicago’s large population with Polish roots, President Donald Trump on Friday took the initial steps needed for Polish citizens to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism without visas.

“We have a lot of Polish Americans living in the United States,” Trump told reporters at the White House. He said he would approve “certain preliminary applications” to nominate Poland to be among the nations whose citizens do not need visas for routine U.S. visits.

“That means that people from Poland can easily travel there, and people from here can easily go back and forth. They can each ... very easily go back and forth between the United States and Poland.”

Trump’s move was not a surprise.

When he met with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the United Nations in New York last month, Trump said, “the visa waivers are in store, it’s already approved.”

“It’s something that’s very important. It was very important, I think, for the President to get that done. And he was able to do it,” Trump said. “Through a lot of hard work, he was able to do it. So I congratulate you, and that’s something that’s going to be great for a lot of — as you say, for the 10 million people living in the United States that want to travel easily to Poland. It’s our honor.”

Trump has had better relations with Duda than with other European leaders, and Duda has spoken warmly about Trump. It’s worth noting that the next Polish parliamentary or legislative branch elections will be held Oct. 13, so Trump may have more in mind as the U.S. is poised to give Duda a top priority diplomatic win.

The lack of a visa waiver program for Poland, a staunch U.S. ally, has been a source of friction between the countries for years.

If final approval comes from the Department of Homeland Security, Poland would be the 39th nation in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without a visa if all the requirements are met.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement the next step would be for Homeland Security “to assess Poland’s entry into the program. ... The bilateral relationship between the United States and Poland has never been stronger, and this would serve as a remarkable accomplishment for both countries.”

Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., who has been pushing for Polish visa waivers since at least 2006, said in a statement, “Today’s announcement that Poland is being nominated for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program is fantastic news for Polish Americans! I’ve been fighting for years to have Poland rightfully included.”

“Over the years I have helped so many families get through the difficult process of acquiring a visa for a Polish family member who wants to come to the U.S. to celebrate a baptism, wedding, or other special event. I am hopeful that this process for including Poland is concluded quickly by the Department of Homeland Security. As co-chair of Poland caucus and one of few Polish Americans in Congress, I will do all I can to work to make sure that this happens.”

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., has also been working on getting Polish visa waivers for years. He said in a statement, “Poland has long been one of our most trusted allies. Their admittance into the Visa Waiver Program is long overdue and I’m proud to have worked with so many others to relentlessly press this administration to take this critical step. It’s also why I introduced legislation each Congress to admit them to the Program. I’m grateful to my colleagues and all those who helped keep up the pressure on this issue so we could finally reach this milestone.”

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