Washington, D.C. – On August 3, 2007 President Bush signed into law the “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.” The legislation makes significant strides in modernizing the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP): most importantly, the addition of enhanced security standards as conditions for program participation.
However, despite the best efforts of the Administration and Members of Congress, the legislation falls short of expectations due to its reliance on visa refusal rates as a determining factor for inclusion. The result is that Hungary, as well as other strong U.S. allies, may be excluded from the program unless the law is improved.
“This isn’t a matter of “if”, but rather “when,” and we’ve made significant progress. The Hungarian American Coalition (HAC) will continue to fight for the passage of legislation that expands the VWP to include Hungary, and we will work with Members of Congress and the Administration vigorously until we have succeeded,” stated HAC President Maximilian Teleki.
Hungary and other EU countries currently excluded from the VWP understand that the new law does represent a breakthrough, given that in the last eight years no new countries have been invited into the program. However, they recognize that the new law does not fulfill President Bush’s promise to America’s closest regional allies and results in unequal treatment of some EU member countries.
The President stated, “I also appreciate the steps taken to modernize the Visa Waiver Program, particularly the additional security measures, but I will continue to work with Congress to advance our security and foreign policy objectives by allowing greater flexibility to bring some of our closest allies into the program.”
It is crucial for Hungary and its regional partners to work closely with the Administration and Members of Congress on making progress in visa refusal rates and overstay rates as well as security cooperation under the updated provisions.
HAC will continue to seek corrections or a waiver in the law during this Congressional session, and plans to work with allies including Representatives Rahm Emanuel, Tom Lantos, John Shimkus and Robert Wexler and Senators Barbara Mikulski and George Voinovich.