Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski
Melissa Schwartz
January 22, 2007

“This proposal is long overdue and rights a wrong in America’s visa program,” Senator Mikulski.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today joined Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) to reintroduce The Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2006, which would authorize an expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by up to five additional countries for a
probationary period of three years.

“I have fought for years to expand the VWP so our allies can visit family and conduct business in the United States without standing in line to get a visa,” said Senator Mikulski. “We know that our borders will be no less secure because of these visitors. But we know that our alliances will be more secure because of this legislation.”

As a condition for program participation, all participants would implement enhanced travel security requirements, negotiate new agreements on counterterrorism cooperation, and demonstrate their close cooperation with the United States in the Global War on Terror. Additionally, the countries would be required to develop strategic plans for coming into full compliance with VWP requirements by the end of their three-year probationary period.

The VWP was established in 1986 as a pilot program to promote better relations with U.S. allies. Currently, 27 countries participate in the VWP.

Statutory requirements for program participation include criteria concerning immigration patterns, security and law enforcement, reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S. citizens, as well as passports that are machine-readable.