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New fee for travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries into effect September 8, 2010

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by Andres Gonzalez, intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates

In an effort to attract tourism into the United States, President Obama signed on March 4, 2010, the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (TPA), which aims to establish partnerships with the private sector to promote the United States as a foreign traveling destination. The TPA will be funded in part by additional fees to be paid when applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is required for visitors entering the United States from countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), according to the U.S. Department of State.

How much will the fee be when applying for ESTA?

Visitors traveling from the selected group of VWP countries will have to pay a total of $14 when applying for an ESTA. During the past years, the Department of Homeland Security determined that applicants should pay $4 per registration, but now the TPA fee adds an additional $10.

When will the new fee go into effect?

On or after, September 8, 2010, ESTA applicants will have to pay the new fee.  Applicants can pay the fee online with a Master Card, Visa, American Express or Discover card. The fee can also be paid with a debit card that holds the Visa or Master Card symbol on it.

Will I have to re-register if I already applied for an ESTA?

No. If you registered before September 8, 2010, you will not have to register again. The ESTA registration will remain valid for the duration previously granted.

For how long is the ESTA approval granted?

ESTA approval will be granted for two (2) years, unless the applicants’ passport expires sooner. With an ESTA approval, visitors can enter the United States multiple times during the time period granted.

Is having an ESTA approval like having a visa?

No. Under U.S. law, ESTA approval is not a visa, nor does it have the same benefits of a visa.

What countries are included in the Visa Waiver Program?

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

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