US Senate approves 10-dollar charge on tourists
Sep 10, 2009, 17:58 GMT
Washington - The US Senate has approved legislation that would charge a 10-dollar fee to visitors who do not require a visa to enter the country, drawing the ire of European Union officials.
The move, approved 79-19 on Wednesday, still has to be approved by the House of Representatives. It primarily affects European countries and was described by EU officials as a setback for transatlantic travel.
Approved as part of the Travel Promotion Act, US politicians said the fee would be used to set up a non-profit organization to better explain entry policies and promote travel to the United States.
The charge would apply to visitors entering the country for fewer than 90 days from those countries that are exempt from getting a visa - that includes tourists from 29 European countries. Those that already need to apply for a visa will not be charged extra.
Since the start of the year, visa-exempt travellers already must register their visits to the US online ahead of time.
John Bruton, the European Commission's ambassador to the United States, has sharply criticized the planned fee and warned that it could prompt the EU to impose something similar on US travellers to the continent.
'Only in Alice in Wonderland could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed,' Bruton said in a statement last week.
'The proposed fee - modest as it may seem will be yet another hoop through which European travelers have to jump. And a step backwards in our joint endeavor toward transatlantic mobility,' Bruton said.