October 3, 2006
Dear Secretary Rice,
We write today out of concern about the exclusion of several friendly nations from the visa waiver program.
As you know, under this program nationals from included countries are allowed to enter the United States as temporary visitors without obtaining a visa. The benefits of this program, however, extend far beyond the increased ease with which visitors are able to travel to the United States.
The visa waiver program facilitates international travel and substantially eases the workload of consular offices abroad. Currently, 27 countries participate in this program, including most EU member states. Several newer EU member states, however, are not currently included in the program, including Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Slovak Republic. These nations, also member countries of NATO, have expressed the desire to be included in this beneficial program.
Concerns over this issue were raised at the U.S.- EU Summit held this past June in Austria. At the time, the United States agreed on the importance of reciprocal visa free travel between the EU and the United States. While we are encouraged by this step, tangible action is necessary to further encourage friendly relations and ensure citizens of these nations are able to make use of the visa waiver program.
We urge you to begin dialogues with these nations regarding the visa waiver program and support continued cooperation with them to ease travel for temporary visitors.
Joining Kucinich on the letter are Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL), Tom Lantos (D-CA), John Murtha (D-PA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), John Lewis (D-GA), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), Pete Stark (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Dale Kildee (D-MI), John Conyers (D-MI), James Oberstar (D-MN), Diane Watson (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Phil English (R-PA), Michael Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Major Owens (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Doyle (R-PA), and Shelley Berkley (D-NV).