EU citizens visiting expats in US will be charged for electronic US visa from September

by Ray Clancy on August 11, 2010

Expats in the US expecting visits from friends and family are being urged to let them know that those from the European Union will face an electronic visa fee from next month.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) has been compulsory for EU visitors flying to the US since the beginning of last year and have been free.

From September 08 though, there will be a charge of $14. Some $10 of the fee will go into a fund promoting US tourism and the rest in admin costs. The form takes up to 72 hours to be approved and gives air passengers prior approval for entry to the US.

Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com says those thinking of making a trip in the next couple of years can avoid the fee by applying right away. ‘Anyone even mulling over visiting the US should urgently fill in their ESTA right away. The security authorisation lasts for two years, so do it now and it’ll be free if you travel in that time. Leave it a month and you’ll have to pay for it,’ he explained.

The decision to introduce a fee has been criticising with many groups pointing out that charging visitors is a strange way of trying to encourage them. ‘It’s rather strange though, that this fee is mainly going towards promoting US tourism. You would’ve thought keeping it cheaper to get in would help more. After all, it’s free for most of them to come here,’ said Lewis.

The EU says it could put people off visiting the US and EU commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said it made organising a trip more complicated. Tourism Association Visit USA said it was against the charge but said it was relieved it was not higher. A spokesman warned people to be aware of bogus websites that are charging higher fees.

Laura Mason-Byers, UK press officer for the US Travel Association, pointed out that the overall charge of $14 covers multiple entries to the country over a two-year period and will not impact too much on holidaymakers.

‘It will give a boost to US travel, which I think they probably need at the moment. I think people will understand. Many countries charge a surcharge for entry and exit,’ she added.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

john August 18, 2010 at 5:12 am

today 14 $, tomorrow 140$, and after 200$….

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