The figures, which are counted for each fiscal year – in the US from 1 October until 30 September – show a marked improvement on the previous year, when the refusal rate stood at 10.8 percent, while in the fiscal year 2012 the number stood at 9.3 percent.
Eight years ago, in comparison, that figure stood at 26.2 percent.
Nevertheless, despite an improvement in the rate, the figure does not match the 3 percent needed in order for a country to qualify for the USA’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows tourists to travel visa-free to the country.
Poland’s Ambassador to the USA, Ryszard Schnepf said that “this [figure] does not solve our problem, but it is a very optimistic piece of news which gives more energy and arguments for Poland to continue its efforts to join the VWP.”
Poland is only one of four countries in the European Union which is not party to the VWP, the others being newer EU member states Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.
Warsaw has long called for the refusal rate limit to join the VWP to be raised from 3 percent to 10 percent. Last year a US Senate resolution paved the way for the limit to be raised, but was left untouched by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and not voted on.
Speaking to the PAP news agency, Schnepf admitted that the “situation is difficult”, as the advent of a new Congress in 2015 following November’s elections means that Poland will have to go back square one with its lobbying on the VWP.
“But this positive energy and critical mass is moving in the right direction and I believe that the upcoming year will be key in terms of resolving this issue,” Schnepf said.
According to the Polish diplomat, a drop in visa rejections could be due to the financial status of citizens applying for entry, “and [the fact that] fewer Poles expect to find work in the US market”.
US President Barack Obama promised back in 2012 that he would push for legislation which would see Poland joining the VWP, yet with only two years to go and a potential bill blocked by Congress, there are doubts whether Poland will be able to join the VWP soon, especially since both the Senate and Congress will be dominated by the Republicans from January next year.
Schnepf said that this may not necessarily have any decisive impact on Poland’s appeal, telling PAP that “we have friends on both sides and there isn’t any clear divide on whether one party is more sympathetic towards Poland’s VWP aspirations”.
However, “there is a large group of representatives in Congress who have declared their backing,” Poland’s Ambassador said.