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Shaheen, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Allow Romania to Join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program

**Last month, Shaheen and Durbin traveled to Romania in her capacity as Chair of the SFRC Subcommittee that oversees U.S. policy toward Europe. She’s visited the Black Sea Region numerous times over the last few years.**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, today introduced legislation granting Romania eligibility for participation in the U.S. visa waiver program. 

“Romania has become one of our strongest allies in Eastern Europe, from hosting United States service members – including soldiers from New Hampshire – deployed to reassure our allies in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and serving as home to the newly-created, French-led NATO multinational battlegroup, to proving a safe haven for Ukrainian refugees fleeing Putin’s war.  They’ve showed a continued commitment to uphold democratic ideals and are valued members of the transatlantic alliance.  During our recent visit to Romania, it became very clear in conversations between Senator Durbin, me and our Romanian allies that extending the U.S. visa waiver program is a commonsense step to recognize their actions and strengthen the relationship between our two countries,” said Shaheen.  

“Romania emerged from the ashes of Soviet tyranny to become a thriving member of the transatlantic community of democracies, NATO, and the EU,” said Durbin.  “With strong memories of Russian tyranny and now bordering the brutal war in Ukraine, Romania is proudly hosting the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne – the first time it has been deployed in Europe in nearly 80 years.  Romania has also generously welcomed Ukrainian refugees fleeing Putin’s tyranny.  I believe Romania is on the right path to join the U.S. visa waiver program and am pleased to introduce legislation advancing that step forward.”  

Specifically, the Senators’ legislation encourages the Government of Romania to undertake all steps necessary to prepare Romania for participation in the U.S. visa waiver program under section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act; continues efforts to reduce trafficking in persons; and allows the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to designate Romania as a program country under the visa waiver program established by that section.

Shaheen and Durbin recently traveled to Georgia and Romania where they met with heads of state, members of the parliament, and representatives from civil society to discuss the nations’ bilateral relationship, as well as the geopolitical importance of the Black Sea region.  While in Romania, the Senators met with U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne, including service members from Illinois; and with Romanian Prime Minister Ciuca, who reiterated the threat of Russian aggression and Romania’s proud role in the larger battle for democracy and freedom.  Prime Minister Ciuca also raised the threat Putin poses to the neighboring democracy of Moldova, where Russia already occupies a piece of its territory.  The trip followed the 2023 Munich Security Conference.

Earlier today, Shaheen introduced her bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) that would establish a U.S. strategy toward the Black Sea region. Senator Shaheen has been very engaged on U.S. policy toward the Black Sea region for years, stemming back to her participation as an election monitor in Georgia with Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) in 2012. Senator Shaheen was successful in securing limited language in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 government funding bill and the FY2023 national defense bill to underscore the importance of the Black Sea region and to require a strategy from the Department of State toward the Black Sea region. She’s been vocal in the U.S. Senate about the urgency of prioritizing the region following Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine. Shortly before Putin’s invasion, Shaheen and former U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) led a bipartisan delegation to Ukraine, where they met with President Zelenskyy and members of his administration. Before the Shaheen-Portman congressional delegation visit in January 2022, Shaheen led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to Eastern Europe, including Georgia and Ukraine, in June 2021. As co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, which she re-started with Senator Tillis in 2018, Shaheen has led bipartisan efforts in the Senate in support of the transatlantic Alliance and as Finland and Sweden seek accession into NATO.