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US to charge for ESTA from 8 Sept 2010

Posted on August 7, 2010 at 7:20 AM

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Just spotted on SKY NEWS    (c) Sky News 2010

 

The levy, known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta), is currently free but from September 8, people will have to pay.

An Esta has been compulsory for all UK residents travelling to America since January 2009.

US Customs and Border Protection announced an interim rule covering the Esta will become effective on September 8.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said: "I regret very much the fee established by the interim rule."

She said she had repeatedly raised concerns about the introduction of a fee that may deter or complicate travel.

Ms Malmstrom added: "I remain convinced that these new requirements... are inconsistent with the commitment of the US to facilitate transatlantic mobility.

"And (they) will be an additional onus for European citizens travelling to the US."

But consumer groups say there is a way of getting around the fee by applying before September 8.

MoneySavingExpert.com said an Esta lasts for two years, or until a person's passport expires, whichever is sooner.

It says if the person applies for authorisation now, they will "beat the $14 fee". And even if the person has no current plans to go to the US, but may do in future, it is worth doing now.

An Esta is a web-based application form that tells you in advance whether you are eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

You should allow up to 72 hours to be told whether you are successful or not, but the majority get an answer immediately.

Esta approval does not guarantee entry into America. It only grants 'approval to travel' to the US.

The Esta system requires travellers to complete an online application form, answering questions they previously had to respond to on paper forms aboard flights or ships bound for the US.

The questions include whether a passenger has a communicable disease, a physical or mental disorder, abuses drugs, has been convicted of certain criminal offences, or been involved in espionage, terrorism or genocide.

Martin Lewis from MoneySavingExpert.com said: "Anyone even mulling over going to the USA should urgently go and fill in their Esta right away.

"The security authorisation lasts for two years so do it now and it'll be free if you travel in that time. Yet leave it for a month and you'll have to pay for it.

"Though it is rather strange that this fee is mainly going to promote US tourism. You would've thought keeping it cheaper to get in would help more - after all, it's free for most Americans to come here"............(c) Sky News 2010

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