U.S. considers tacking fee onto online visa registration
TOKYO — The United States is considering whether to require some foreigners to pay a fee to register online with the Department of Homeland Security, according to an assistant executive director within the agency.
Since it began in January, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization has been free for visitors from the 35 countries whose citizens are not required to obtain visas to visit the States.
Visitors from those countries — including South Korea, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom — must register every two years.
The authorization will check travelers’ information against existing data that include watch lists, criminal histories and information about stolen or missing passports, officials said. It began after a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to thwart potential terrorists from entering the United States. Travelers must seek authorization at least 72 hours prior to travel, officials said.
So far, the program has processed 11.3 million applications worldwide and rejected less than 2 percent, according to Maureen Dugan, an assistant executive director within Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Already, the program has exhausted a $30 million budget meant to establish and implement the system, Dugan said during a news conference Thursday at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Current legislation allows the U.S. government to charge a fee, and a bill before Congress would set a timeline for establishing it, Dugan said.
Dugan said the fee, if implemented, would be minimal.
The Associated Press has reported Congress is considering charging a $10 fee for registration. The AP also reported the money would pay for a campaign to promote travel to the United States, including making visitors aware of entry procedures.