Charge Americans for visas!

US VisaToday it was announced that the US is going to start charging £9 for an ESTA travel form. So what’s the difference between a visa and a visa waiver?

When tourists from western countries visit even a country such as China, the visa application process is fairly simple and can be completed by post. The questions are much the same as is required by ESTA, and no interview is required. A decision is made and the documents returned by post. The main distinction between a visa and ESTA has been that the latter is free.

So it seems that in the future, ESTA will in effect be a visa that’s cheaper, quicker to receive, and doesn’t require sending off your passport. But it no longer gives the impression of being a waiver, or a special privilege for America’s allies. You still have to apply in advance, and have a decision made in your favour in order to avoid a trip to the US Embassy.

I think that if the US is going to require everyone to pay for this new type of visa, then we in other visa waiver countries should reciprocate and introduce a similar charge and process for American visitors. This isn’t the first instance where arrangements are one-sided in America’s favour. Just look at the extradition agreement that has famously left a British hacker facing a ludicrously long jail sentence if he’s tried in America. Then there’s also the fingerprinting of people on arrival in the States. Let’s have a little more parity and bring in similar measures for American citizens visiting Europe.

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