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    The time for visa-free travel to the US is near

    More than 10 million Americans have Polish roots. Chicago used to be known as the city with second largest number of Polish inhabitants (with a population reaching an estimated 1 million people of Polish descent) after Warsaw. That was before London overtook it, following Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004. The most recent large wave of Polish immigration to the US came after the communist regime’s crackdown on the democratic opposition in connection with the introduction of martial law in 1981.

    Even if fewer Poles immigrate to the US these days, around 200 000 Poles travel there every year, many of them visiting friends and family.
    However, travelling to the US is more complicated and expensive for Poles than most other Europeans. Poland is one of the few countries which hasn’t entered the Visa Waiver Program yet.

    Other countries located in Central Eastern Europe such as the Baltic States, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have been admitted to the program in recent years, raising hopes that Poles would soon be included into that group as well. The new US Ambassador in Warsaw, Georgette Mosbacher, stated in December 2018 that the goal is for the visa requirement for Poles to be lifted by the end of 2019. In order to achieve this, Poland will need to reach a minimum of 3% of visa applications being rejected. The number of rejected applications has recently dropped from around 6% to slightly under 4%.

    The Polish flag carrier LOT Polish Airlines has been growing quickly in the last couple of years and is interested in opening up new routes to the US. Visa-free travel is expected to significantly increase the number of passengers on transatlantic flights, which is why LOT has launched an information campaign aimed at increasing the number of visa applications and informing people how to correctly apply for a visa in order to minimize the number of rejected applications.

    With the help of their new website – – dedicated to the campaign, LOT explain how to choose the correct form of visa. Apart from the most common tourist visas B-1/B-2, there are also student visas (F), work visas for experts (H-1B) and visas for professional artists or athletes (P). The page also serves as a guide through the process of filling out the necessary visa application document DS-160 online. Once that is done, the applicant needs to print out a confirmation that the DS-160 form has been filled out, carry out an online payment for applying for the visa, schedule an appointment at the nearest US consulate and bring a passport as well as the printed DS-160 confirmation to the consulate for the scheduled interview.

    Before filling out the visa application, it’s important for people with a criminal record to investigate whether they are eligible for a visa. Misdemeanors and petty offences are usually not an obstacle to being granted a visa whilst convictions for a felony, drug possession or crimes of moral turpitude will, with a high probability make the application inadmissible.

    After filling out the DS-160 document properly and having passed the interview at a US consulate, Poles can travel with LOT from Warsaw to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. From Krakow it’s possible to travel to Chicago, while flights from Rzeszow land in Newark and New Jersey. LOT also operates flights from the Hungarian capital city, Budapest to New York and Chicago.

    If the current trend in numbers of rejected visa applications decreasing  continues, Poles can expect to be eligible for visa-free travel to the US as early as next year. The United States Congress will however have the last say in the matter but taking into consideration how close political relations between the two states currently are, the matter should be resolved favorably. So all the emphasis from the Polish side is to just lower the rejection of visa applications to 3% this year.

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