Travelers Visiting U.S. Now Need To Pay Fee

A controversial $14 fee that's been criticized as a "tourist tax" is now in effect for visitors to the U.S. from 36 countries, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Those travelers with a U.S. visa are exempt.

The new fee is tied to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program, run by the Department of Homeland Security, which requires travelers from certain countries to fill out an online form and receive pre-trip approval to enter the U.S.

ESTA is designed to give U.S. authorities extra time to check travelers' names against the "no fly" list and terrorist databases.

The program was launched in January 2009, and was free until Wednesday.

Homeland Security says the new fee is for "operational and travel promotion" expenses. But the fee has been criticized by the European Union as "inconsistent with the commitment of the U.S. to facilitate transatlantic mobility."

The fee applies to travelers arriving by air and sea.

Photo, koshyk, flickr
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