14 September 2009

Nominal fee for ESTA to communicate US entry policies, promote tourism

The US Congress has passed a bill to establish a non-profit corporation to communicate United States entry policies and promote tourism, business and scholarly travel to the country.

American Visa

If enacted, the Travel Promotion Act would see a nominal US$10 fee for the ESTA program.

The Bill, known as the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, is currently being considered by the House of Representatives and if approved will see a nominal fee added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for international tourists.
Representative Bill Delahunt introduced the bipartisan bill, along with Representative Roy Blunt, in an effort to address the decline in overseas nationals visiting the US and to act as an economic stimulus and exercise in public diplomacy. 

The Senate voted 79-19 to approve the Travel Promotion Act, and Delahunt has said he is determined to see the bill enacted into law.

“In one bold step, we can create jobs in the tourism sector and enhance America’s image abroad,” Delahunt said.

“We all know the best ambassadors for our nation are ordinary Americans, so every additional visitor to the US will return home to report on the warmth and vitality of our hospitality.”

Currently, the US is one of the few developed countries in the world who does not have a nationally co-ordinated tourism campaign. If enacted, the Travel Promotion Act will establish a partnership organisation to promote the United States as an international destination. The improvements will paid for with a nominal US$10 fee on travellers who enter the country under the ESTA program.

The legislation currently has 70 House of Representative co-sponsors.

The European Union has expressed dissatisfaction about the Travel Promotion Act, which it described as a step backwards in the European Commissions' efforts to improve transatlantic mobility.

Since January 12, international visitors from 35 countries have been obliged to request online authorisation, known as the ESTA, to enter the US.

These 35 countries, which include European countries, Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, are exempt from US visa requirements  and are able to enter the US for short visits under the US Visa Waiver Program with an ESTA.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in American visa and immigration services.

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