by The Associated Press | November 02, 2018
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- The new U.S. ambassador to Poland has made a promise to Poles that could be hard to keep -- to lift the visa requirement they face to travel to the United States. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher, an appointee of President Donald Trump who took up her post in September, acknowledged the difficulty in an interview broadcast Thursday by the private TVN24 broadcaster. She said everyone, including her bosses, told her not to make the promise, but she went ahead anyway, saying that: "I am committed to getting visa waiver through by the end of next year."
The visa requirement has long been an irritant in relations between the two nations, which are otherwise strong allies. Poles deeply resent that they, unlike Western Europeans, must apply for U.S. visas, facing the potential of having their travel requests denied and paying fees even when refused. The fact that Poles have fought and died in U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has only added to the resentments.
Many U.S. diplomats have long been sympathetic to the desire by Poles -- one of the most pro-U.S. populations in Europe -- to travel freely to America. However, the decision is not decided by ambassadors but regulated by U.S. law.
The threshold for a nation to enter into the visa waiver program is a 3 percent refusal rate. American consulates in Poland, however, are still rejecting more than 5 percent of Polish applicants, either because they had been in trouble with the law, overstayed earlier visas or worked illegally in the United States.