For the last few years, the United States has been trialling an electronic visa system designed to eliminate excess paperwork and simplify the immigration process. The system, which is currently essential for those travelling from the UK or Europe, has been largely successful, saving time for those with specific travel plans and eliminating lengthy wait times in United States airports.
It’s also been, up until now, a completely free system. The economic and cultural ties between the United States and most of the European Union have made immigration between the two countries virtually seamless, helping the economies of all involved and ensuring simple travel. However, a new £9 ‘entry fee’ could bring the entire process to the ground, starting with UK-US immigration.
Starting from the 8th of September, United States authorities will levy a £9 charge against travellers entering the country from a United Kingdom airport. The move is targeted primarily at UK citizens and residents who use a compulsory Esta online booking system, and it’s been subject to immense criticism from residents of Britain and other European Union countries who travel frequently.
The fee is payable online and lasts for two years, giving UK residents unlimited entry to the United States within its period of validity. While several media outlets have reported that the fee is required before every entry to the United States, official releases have suggested that it is a one-off cost to be applied before every twenty-four months of entry into the country.
Will it cause an inconvenience for UK-based travellers? Undoubtedly. Will it be the major disaster that many are predicting? Unlikely. With a sustained tradition of USA-UK travel and cultural ties, it seems highly unlikely that a small regulatory change will cut down on EU-US travel. Registrations made before September 8th are not subject to the fee, and are recommended for frequent travellers.