On 11 November this year, Poland will officially enter the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). It means that from now on, Polish citizens will be able to travel to the United States visa-free. The programme, which is administered by the US government, allows foreigners to visit the country for tourism or business-related purposes for up to 90 days.
Travellers visiting the United States under the VWP, are not required to apply for a visa - however, they must obtain prior approval to travel through ESTA - the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation - and hold a biometric passport. The registration fee is much lower than that charged for a visa (14 dollars compared to 160 dollars for a business/tourist visa) and the approval remains valid for two years. Foreigners willing to take up employment are still required to obtain a visa.
Lifting the visa requirement is major news for Poland - the country has long sought to enter the US waiver programme, being one of the few EU countries not included in the VWP (the other ones are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania). It is estimated that the United States is home to over 10 million Polish Americans, comprising the largest Polish community abroad - most Poles and Americans of Polish origin live in the states of Illinois, New York and Michigan. Up until now, Poland could not participate in the VWP as its visa refusal rate exceeded the required 3 per cent threshold. This year, however, the rate has finally fallen to 2.8 per cent, allowing a lot of Polish citizens to visit their families across the pond visa-free.
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