New ESTA charge for the US is criticised

We recently blogged about the new Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) charges for trips to the United States. The online visa application procedure was introduced in 2008 and became mandatory in January 2009.

Since the 8th September 2010, all travellers have had to pay a fee of £9 for authorisation to visit the US adding nearly £40 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four. The new ESTA charge has been criticised by tourism groups.

Kate Burgess-Craddy, chairwoman of the Visit USA Association, said: “We didn’t support this charge. It’s not a good idea, but it was the only way the US government could come up with a budget for promoting tourism.”

The fee was introduced by the US government to raise funds to promote the country as a holiday destination. However, James Fremantle, a spokesman for the Air Transport Users Council, said it would deter people from visiting the country.

“It’s difficult to see why British travellers should be paying for the US to promote itself when they are already spending money by visiting the country.”

From November, planned rises in Air Passenger Duty (APD), will add a further £30 to the cost of a flight to the US.

The ESTA form must be completed at least 72 hours before departure, and can be used for multiple entries for up to two years.

A spokeswoman for the US Embassy said she didn’t believe Britons would be discouraged from visiting. “This is not unique, 56 other countries charge entry or exit fees, and many spend the money on promoting tourism.”

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* Premium £31.92 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on an adult aged under 55 taking out a “Standard” Single Trip 24/7 travel insurance policy for 15-days in the USA excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (October 2010) and are subject to change.