13 September 2010
New US ESTA fee for tourists travelling to the United States
The United States yesterday implemented a mandatory charge for an application for authorisation to travel to the country under their 'Electronic System for Travel Authorisation' (ESTA) scheme. A US ESTA application is compulsory for all visitors from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program, which includes 36 different nations.
Speaking on the US ESTA at a press conference last week, Jacquelyn Bednarz from the US Department of Homeland Security said the Department is “very confident that the system is fast and easy and very user-friendly”.
The American Visa Bureau have developed an application process for the US ESTA . In addition to allowing an application to be made, Visa Bureau’s service provides regular reminders to update information and alerts for when the application needs to be renewed.
The online service lodges an application to the Department of Homeland Security in the US, making it easy to apply and change any information in the future.
The US Customs & Border Protection site describe the new charge as a fee for ‘operational and travel promotion’ services, but the system has drawn sharp criticism from the European Commission. Critics question whether the new charge may actually be counter-productive in attracting tourists to visit. Cecilia Malmstroem, the European Union Home Affairs Commissioner described the new requirements as “inconsistent with the commitment of the US to facilitate transatlantic mobility and will be an additional onus for European citizens travelling to the US.”
The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with the US visa and immigration process.