Senator Kirk and Congressman Quigley Support Bipartisan Tourism Initiative That Will Expand the Visa Waiver Program

WASHINGTON, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—March 27, 2012.  Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-5) today urged support for a new tourism proposal unveiled yesterday by Senator Kirk and a bipartisan group of Senators.  The Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act would reform outdated visa laws and and create jobs through increasing international travel to the U.S.  The legislation is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators including Senator Kirk, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).   

A key provision of the JOLT Act championed by Senator Kirk and Congressman Quigley is the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to include U.S. Allies, such as Poland, frozen out under the current framework.  Currently, Poland is the only member of the 25-country Schengen area not able to travel to the United States under the VWP, which gives citizens of selected countries the ability to travel to the U.S. for 90 days without a U.S. visa.  

On March 7, 2011, Senator Kirk and Congressman Quigley introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation to update and modernize VWP requirements, ultimately making Poland and other U.S. allies eligible to participate in the VWP.   On May 28, 2011, during his inaugural visit to Poland, President Obama endorsed this legislation.   In January 2012, Senator Kirk and Congressman Quigley traveled to Poland to discuss ways to further enhance the U.S.-Polish partnership, including advancing the VWP legislation.  

“Despite its strong support for the United States, Poland remains one of the only major democratic U.S. allies to be excluded from the Visa Waiver Program,” said a spokesperson for Senator Kirk.  “This legislation would fulfill the President’s commitment to a strong democratic ally and bring Poland into the Visa Waiver Program while providing a needed boost to America’s tourism industry.  Tourism supported more than 100,000 jobs and brought more than $10 billion to Illinois last year alone. Common sense updates to the Visa Waiver Program are overdue and this bipartisan approach should move through Congress quickly.”

“Poland is an incredible diplomatic partner for the United States, and their inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program would provide valuable tourism revenue to Chicago and many other cities across America,” said Congressman Quigley. “By passing this bipartisan legislation, we can reform the outdated system that has denied visa-free travel to major allies like Poland and strengthen our diplomatic relations.”

The JOLT Act is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, March 27th in the Senate.

A list of the countries that currently participate in the Visa Waiver Program can be found here.

Source: kirk.senate.gov