Poland’s Inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program-FAQ

Poland’s Inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program



Q: How will Polish citizens travel to the United States once Poland is included in the Visa Waiver Program?

A:  For short tourism and business trips of 90 days or less, Polish citizens who apply for and receive an approved online authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will not need to have a visa.  For other categories of travel, including stays over 90 days, working, or studying in the United States, a visa will still be required.  Polish citizens traveling to the U.S. without a visa will need a passport with an embedded computer chip.

Q:  When will visa-free travel for Polish citizens begin?

A: Visa-free travel will begin on November 11, 2019.

Q: Do Polish citizens need to register anywhere for visa-free travel to the United States?

A:  To travel without a visa, the Polish citizen traveler must also request an online authorization under ESTA.  ESTA allows more effective and efficient pre-screening of travelers.  Polish citizens will be allowed to apply for ESTA shortly before the date on which visa-free travel will commence.  ESTA is required for travelers from all of the 38 existing Visa Waiver Program member countries.

Q: How much does ESTA cost?

A:  ESTA currently costs $14, which is significantly less than the $160 fee for applying for a U.S. tourist/business visa.

Q: I have a visa that is still valid. How will I travel to the U.S.? 

A: Any traveler who has a valid visa can continue to use it, even after visa-free travel is possible.  A valid visa holder need not apply for ESTA. Those traveling with visas may be able to stay in the United States for up to six months, as determined by the immigrant agent at the U.S. port of entry.

Q: How long can Polish citizens stay in the U.S. when traveling there without a visa within the Visa Waiver Program?

A:  Polish citizens can travel on the Visa Waiver Program for short tourism or business trips of up to 90 days.  Extensions are not possible.

Q: I was denied a visa before, or had problems at a U.S. port of entry. Can I now travel to the U.S. without a visa?

A: Generally, an applicant who previously was denied a U.S. visa, or who has a history of other incidents that could affect visa eligibility, such as a criminal conviction or previous U.S. immigration violation, will not receive an approved ESTA, and thus cannot travel visa-free. Any traveler who is denied an ESTA can apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Q:  Are there other restrictions on visa-free travel?

A: Visa-free travel generally is only available for those arriving on regularly scheduled commercial flights or cruise ships.  In addition, special rules apply to those crossing by car or on foot at land ports of entry.  Please read all of the frequently asked questions available on U.S. Government websites relating to the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA (see below).

Q:  Where can Polish citizens find more information about the Visa Waiver Program?

A: Complete details on the Visa Waiver Program (including ESTA) are available at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s ESTA website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov and the State Department’s travel website at http://travel.state.gov, and additional information soon will be available on the U.S. Embassy’s website:  https://pl.usembassy.gov.

Q:  Why did it take so long for Poland to become a member of the Visa Waiver Program?

A: Most of Poland’s neighboring countries became members of the Visa Waiver Program when the legal requirements for entry were less strict (most notably, the visa refusal rate requirement).  In addition, the U.S. Congress has enacted legislation in recent years making the program’s security-related requirements more robust.  Poland has fulfilled all of these stricter legal requirements for Visa Waiver Program membership.

Q: Do Polish students still need a J1 visa to participant in the Summer Work Travel Program and other Exchange Programs (such as Camp Counselor, Intern/Trainee)?

A: Yes, these exchange programs require a J1 visa.  Those traveling without a visa are not permitted to engage in any type of exchange program activity or other employment while in the United States.

Q: I paid for the visa application fee, but have not yet scheduled my appointment or wish to cancel my appointment. May I seek a refund?

A: Unfortunately, visa application fees are not refundable.  We welcome you to schedule your visa interview appointment.  If your visa is approved, you will not need to apply for ESTA.