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DHS Designates Poland as a Visa Waiver Program Country

There’s good news for travelers who hold passports from the Republic of Poland. According to an official press release issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), individuals who are Polish citizens were able to start enjoying the benefits of the Visa Waiver Program on November 11th, 2019. A statement made by Kevin McAleenan, who was the acting Secretary of Homeland Security at the time, mentioned the close relationship Poland and the U.S. have been forging for many years as the catalyst for including that country in the program. The experienced immigration attorneys from KS Visa Law, a trusted provider of immigration services in San Diego, offer these guidelines for understanding how this affects people with Polish passports.

What this announcement means for Polish passport holders is that they no longer need to file visa applications when traveling to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes. However, this doesn’t mean they can just grab their passports and head to the airport. First of all, travelers who have already been granted a B1 or B2 visa should continue to use them until they expire. Second, travel to the U.S. these days requires authorization, which means registration in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) registry.

Polish travelers who hadn’t previously entered the U.S. were able to start applying for the ESTA program on November 11th. Unlike the various filing processes required by Citizenship and Immigration Services, ESTA is handled directly by the DHS, and it only takes about three days for an authorization to be granted. This application is conducted entirely online, and it can be submitted on an individual or group basis. The first requirement is that the Polish passport is valid. The second is that there are no current visas that should be used or allowed to expire before applying for ESTA.

As of November 2019, the ESTA application fee was $14 per traveler, and it can be paid with a major credit card or funds from a PayPal account. Contact and employment information must be current at the time of application. Although the ESTA approval is good for two years, the permanence period for eligible Polish tourists and business travelers is still 90 days. Overstaying this period without an approved extension could complicate future visits.

The Visa Waiver Program isn’t supposed to influence USCIS decisions with regard to individuals who are seeking to work or reside in the U.S. Nonetheless, it does make things easier for certain immigrants. Let’s say a Polish man visits the U.S. as a tourist and becomes romantically involved with an American citizen during his stay. If the relationship advances to a marriage proposal, it would be easier for the Polish fiancée to return home and start preparing a K-1 non-immigrant visa that would allow him to travel back to the U.S. for the purpose of getting married.

Polish ESTA applicants who are HIV positive don’t have to indicate this condition under the “communicable diseases” section of the online application. Finally, it’s important to remember that all foreigners entering the U.S. must be deemed admissible at the port of entry, and they may be subject to secondary inspections and questioning.

If you need more information about visas, make sure to seek the advice of experienced immigration lawyers. San Diego residents should reach out to the knowledgeable immigration attorneys at KS Visa Law. We can assist you with a wide variety of issues related to immigration, including employment and family immigration. Call us today at 858-874-0711 to schedule a consultation.

September 2023