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US starts charging for online visa-waiver

Huddled masses? Nine quid a head, squire

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The US online visa-waiver scheme ESTA starts charging from early next month.

Previously British travellers could, under some circumstances, avoid US visa requirements by filling in an online form. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization was only for citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program and was a free service.

From 8 September travellers will have to pay $14 - £9 to enter the US. The fee will apparently go towards promoting US tourism.

Cecilia Malmström, EU home affairs boss, said the charge was regrettable and an extra burden on European travellers.

Some observers have suggested anyone considering going to the US in the next two years should apply now. The visa waiver does last for two years and inclusion of flight numbers and addresses during your stay is optional. But given the total cost of any trip to the US we're not sure a £9 saving is going to change anyone's mind.

There's a detailed Q&A on ESTA here. ®

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