Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 09:37 UK

US travel charge plan criticised

London airport Heathrow
The EU says it may have to consider visas for US travellers

US plans to charge European travellers, who normally enjoy visa-free travel, to visit have come under attack.

The European Union (EU) has criticised proposals to charge $10 for those in the normal visa waiver programme, and have threatened retaliatory charges.

The charge would be used to fund a new programme - to promote foreign travel to the US.

The EU sees this as yet another burden to many of its citizens, after new rules that recently came into effect.

Visa waiver

"Only in 'Alice in Wonderland' could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed," said John Bruton, the European Commission's ambassador to Washington.

As of this year, travellers in the visa waiver programme - a list of 35 countries including the UK, France, Germany, Singapore and Japan - must now register online at least 72 hours before travel and renew their registration every two years.

The new plans would mean that those visitors would have to pay a $10 charge when they register.

That money would be used to find a new public-private partnership that would educate visitors, among other things, on the online registration for visa-free travel to the US.

US Representative William Delahunt, who has sponsored the bill that includes the charge, said it was a "nominal fee" and urged the EU not to exaggerate the issue.

"This is a tempest in a teapot," he said.

But Mr Bruton said the EU would have to consider whether the new charge, if signed into law, would amount to a new visa against its travellers.

If so, the EU might have to consider visas for US travellers.

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