Travel industry pushes for Poland to join visa waiver program

The U.S. travel industry used President Obama's European trip to make another push for passage of legislation that would let Poland into the Visa Waiver Program. 

The measure, the JOLT Act, has a mix of Republican and Democratic support with nearly 160 House co-sponsors, and would more broadly help smooth travel in and out of the United States, especially for international travelers.

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"The president has signaled that he would like the U.S. to cement economic and security ties to Poland, and there is a quick and easy avenue available for achieving that: admitting Poland to the Visa Waiver Program," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

"We ask the president to prioritize action on the bill, and call on House leaders to heed the huge bipartisan support for this measure and move it forward."

The bill also would clear the way for several more nations to join the program, which allows visa-free travel to the U.S. 

There are 38 countries in the program, many of which are in Europe. Chile was the latest to join in March. 

There also is bipartisan Senate support from Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who both introduced a bill more than a year ago that would bring Poland into the fold. 

Dow noted that Obama recently reemphasized his goal of attracting 100 million international visitors to the U.S. annually by 2021.

"The JOLT Act is a key ingredient in the recipe of policies that's going to make that possible," he said.

Obama was in Warsaw on Tuesday where he met with Polish leaders and will mark the 25th anniversary of the country's first post-communist elections.

"Washington leaders constantly cite promoting inbound travel as a critical tool for both economic and foreign policy, and visa waiver expansion is a proven, effective means for boosting international visitation to the U.S.," Dow said.

"Poland has long been among the strongest candidates for the program, and the move would dovetail with some of the objectives President Obama has laid out on his European trip."

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