/ Travel & Leisure

Will a £9 permit really stop you visiting the USA?

British passport and American money

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.


The $14 is nothing compared to the weight of beaurocracy involved in visiting the states. The USA thrives on paperwork, it seems. Much of it seems unnecessary – the visa waiver application asks, “Were you ever a member of the N**i party?”.

I’ve filled the ESTA in twice now, and I’ve yet to come across a less friendly website – it really is a reminder of what the Web was like back in the Nineties.

This straight-faced lack of a welcome used to be a feature of US Customs officials too, though they seem to have softened of late. I wonder if a little more of the US-UK ‘special relationship’ has rubbed off on them?

The Americans seem to feel it their right to inflict unilateral regulations. We have allowed Americans to visit without a visa since the 1950s, but it was decades before they reciprocated. The ESTA bureaucracy was bad enough anyway, but being charged a fee for wasting our time on their pretty pointless web-site is really annoying. UK Passport control should collect a similar charge from every American entering the UK.

No, it won’t stop me visiting. But I do hope we reciprocate.

The only things stopping me visiting the USA again is the Americans and their guns.

Megan Jenkins says:
16 August 2010

No, £9 won’t stop me but their demand to take my fingerprints already has – I’m not a criminal and refuse to be treated like one. And this from the country that prides itself on freedom….

W.S.Becket says:
5 June 2011

Will WHICH be campaigning to have the fee scrapped or a reciprocal arrangement put into place?

Mark says:
10 July 2011

It is time the UK took the finger prints of Americans entering the UK.
I refuse to visit the USA and be treated as a common criminial.
In the UK the finger prints are taken of those people who are suspected of a criminal act.
So, why do people allow themselves and be treated as suspected criminals.
Vote with your feet and refuse to go to USA. There are plenty of other countries to visit.

Mahatma Gandhi stated taking finger prints is an afront to human dignity.
Yes, he went to jail when the South Africian government wanted to force all Indians in South Africa to give their finger prints to the government. The South African (British) government backed down.

The Amercians only understand tit-for-tat.
Finger print all Amercians and let them exprience the shame of being finger printed and charge them for the privileage!

Come on Which… stand up for the UK citiziens instead if bowing to the Amercians.

I will not be visiting the States because of their intrusive oppressive and dismissive approach to visitors, their dignity and privacy. My freedom and dignity is important to me and worth a lot more than £9.

Mark says:
11 June 2012

WTF! – I am amazed the US economy is so screwed. This must raise Billions. The EU should adopt it… ohh they have its called jumbo taxes and we all pay it every time we go anywhere.

God bless the internet and video web meetings. I used to spend about £70-100k a year on flights and hotels. Last year I spent about £2k. Now I refuse to travel unless its for fun. Quality of life has improved and I am getting a stack more done.