27 September 2010
European Parliament criticizes ESTA fee to fund travel promotion
The European Parliament has criticized the United States for imposing a ESTA fee on foreign visitors, raising the possibility to levy a similar fee on American travellers to the EU.
In early September, the US introduced the ESTA application fee for visitors from 36 countries - including the UK, Japan and Australia — who are part of the visa-waiver programme. The European Union has criticised the move, saying that effectively a new type of visa has been created.
The money raised through the ESTA fee will fund tourism promotion to the US.
Travellers must obtain an ESTA before travel to the US; however, once purchased the ESTA is valid for two years.
"A new type of visa has been invented," Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament, said during a recent debate on the US measure.
"It's unbelievable. It's a unique business model; they are getting consumers to pay for advertisements."
The US Government hopes the fee will help overcome a 2.4 million decline in overseas visitors last year from 25.9 million in 2000.
The European Commission, the EU's regulatory arm responsible for managing visa policy and for proposing laws, left open the possibility of a similar fee for US visitors to Europe.
The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their US Visa and immigration applications to the American Embassy.