One European Commissioner has called America’s new $14 charge to enter the country an ‘onus,’ but is it really enough of a burden to stop British travellers heading Stateside?
In case you’re wondering, the fee is being added to America’s ‘Visa waiver’ programme – a mandatory scheme that gives visitors temporary residency in the country.
The system, known as The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), was once free, but from 8 September a $14 (£9) charge will be added. The waiver must be completed online at least 72 hours before departure and lasts two years.
Mixed feelings over new fee
When I read about the charge, my first thoughts were of the selfish kind – taking satisfaction in the fact that I had recently returned from a trip to New York and that my accepted application would still be valid for close to two more years.
My second thought was actually a question – is this fair? UK tourists love visiting the States and, as a result, are likely to be one of the nations most affected by the charge.
To give you an example, whilst researching my work trip to New York, I discovered that over a million of us were guests in the city last year – the highest number of travellers from an individual country to visit the ‘Big Apple’ worldwide.
Aren’t we contributing enough to US tourism without an additional $14 travel promotion fee? Perhaps if there was more information about what my money was specifically going to be used for I’d be in a better position to answer that question.
We’ll still travel to the US
Fairness aside, and returning to my original question – no, this fee won’t put me off holidaying to the US. As a regular traveller I’ve become accustomed to being charged a fee for entering countries, only last month handing over a crisp £10 note to enter Turkey.
Regarding the application process specifically, while undoubtedly a chore, if the new online payment system is as quick and easy as the current process, I won’t lose much sleep worrying about the fee.
Though you might want to go ahead and get yourself a free ESTA permit now – it’ll last you a couple of years.