President Trump expanded the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), adding Poland to the list of 38 counties from which nationals can freely travel to the United States without a visa, despite warnings from investigators who reviewed failures in the immigration system after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
On Friday, Trump announced that he would add Poland to the VWP. Thus Polish nationals will now be allowed to travel to the U.S. visa-free for up to 90 days, acknowledging that the nation has been lobbying to be added to the list for decades.
Poland is a country, great people, we have a lot of Polish Americans living in the United States. I’ve just signed, I will soon be signing and signed certain preliminary applications. We will be giving a full visa waiver to Poland. That means that people from Poland can easily travel there and people from here can easily go back and forth.
So they’ve been trying to get this for many, many decades and I got it for the Polish people in honor of the Polish people in the United States.
The VWP list includes Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
The VWP has continuously been expanded since the 9/11 terrorist attacks despite warnings from immigration experts and the 9/11 Commission Staff Report that the program poses serious national security risks for the U.S. and American citizens.
The 9/11 Commission Staff Report, for example, in 2004 warned that visa policy must be considered in the realm of national security as 19 Islamic terrorists were able to obtain visas before carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11, while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States,border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe, for reasons we discuss in the following pages, that it must be made one. [Emphasis added]
A handful of terrorists have used the VWP to gain entry to the U.S. with the sole purpose of carrying out plots of mass murder. One of those cases involved 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, serving a life sentence, who got a French passport and used the VWP to enter the U.S.
Likewise, Richard Reid, known as the “Shoe Bomber,” used his British passport and the VWP in his effort to blow up a flight from the U.K. to Miami, Florida in 2001.
The VWP has also been known to be a key driver of illegal immigration to the country, specifically from nations that do not share land borders with the U.S. The latest visa overstay rate of nationals from VWP countries finds that the program does nothing to reduce illegal immigration from these counties.
For instance, more than 25,000 British nationals overstayed their visas in 2017, as well as nearly 16,500 French nationals, nearly 14,000 Spaniards, and more than 3,700 Portuguese nationals. The number of French nationals overstaying their visas in 2017 increased more than 37 percent compared to the year before.
Countries participating in the VWP generated more than 131,000 illegal aliens in the U.S. in 2017.