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Visiting the USA

By neilb@uk ·
or, rather, not visiting the USA.

I've been to the USA on vacation a dozen or more times. Love it and love you all. Although, on every flight I've filled in that silly green card with its stupid questions: "Were you ever a member of the Nazi party?".

Last time, I filled in my details on the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ESTA, a couple of weeks prior and although I have to reckon it the crappiest website ever invented, it was probably easier than trying to fill the card in on an economy flight table. The questions aren't any better: "Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?". Ah, well... That would be telling.

Now, it would seem, we have to comply with the ESTA and pay for the privilege, starting on 8th September. OK, so it's only 14 USD but - and this is where I get slightly ticked off - the charge is not to pay for the service but is intended to be used to promote US tourism.

You want ME to pay for YOUR tourist promotion? Nope. Don't we Brits (and others) contribute enough to you tourism?

Now, I could fill it in now while it's free and it's good for the next two years but my passport needs renewing and the ESTA goes with it. And so does next year's trip.

It's the principle. The USA is a rich country and I go there to spend money - lots of it - on travel, accommodation, food and entertainment. I already pay US customs $2.70, a US immigration fee of $3.50 and a US animal and plant health inspection services user fee of about $2.50 every time I travel (and I don't get anything from that).

This year, I'm driving to Rimini, in Italy, and I'll pass through seven countries and not only will it not cost me anything when I cross the borders, I won't even have to show my passport.


My erstwhile membership of the Waffen SS will probably be quite useful in Switzerland.

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creative sausage-making and ill will

by bergenfx In reply to Visiting the USA

I completely agree how stupid this is. Revenues will probably be enough to buy a wing for a military transport carrier. Hardly worth the ill will, but then I am not the one who gets to make these value judgments.

Bush tax cuts have pushed burdens on to states (by reducing federal revenue sharing). State elected officials don't want to antagonize voters with an income or sales tax increases, so they make creative taxes which affect the least number of people. Seems the federal govt has picked up the theme and are taxing non-voting visitors. (I know. More than you want to know about American sausage-making). I imagine also, the bean-counters set a figure that most international travelers would shrug at, not figuring for those offended in principle.

Practically speaking, though, most European governments make out better than the US. The 15% - 18% VAT is a much larger dent than $14 plus a 5% - 8% sales tax, (in my state, 0%).

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It's not that they want to charge me 14 USD

by neilb@uk In reply to creative sausage-making a ...

(much) but that they want to put the money towards promoting tourism to the US. I agree that the level is set that a family of four will "only" have to add $56 to their holiday costs and will probably pay it to take their kids to Disney but I will find somewhere else to go.

Canada, maybe...


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Ich bin ein...

by mjwx In reply to Visiting the USA

Ah, well... That would be telling.

A quote from The Prisoner?

Appropriate I guess. I've always been amused at the idea of asking, on an arrival card if I'm planning to overthrow the government. I feel like ticking yes just for the fun of it (if they find out I'm planning to do it by ticking yes on the arrival card my masterful plan will be foiled). The Australian card at least asks useful questions like "have you got any plants, animals or porn".

As for paying for Customs services, you could just do what most countries do. Confiscate your cheap booze at the door if you've got more the 2L of it (Litres, yes a metric measurement dear Americans, you will learn to love the metric system). This is why it's always party time at the AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) HQ.

Well, be seeing you.

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The dutch form probably is like this:

by AnsuGisalas In reply to Ich bin ein...

A) Are you a person who isn't dutch?
B) Are you without drugs?
C) Are you without a prostitute?

The only prohibitive one is A... that's a no-go

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by Ed Woychowsky In reply to Ich bin ein...

Booze and soda are two things that we can get in metric. Although most Americans don't even realize that it's metric.

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Motorcycle engines too

by AnsuGisalas In reply to Litres

Them cc's ain't cubic cubits

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Engine displacement is rapidly going metric

by NickNielsen In reply to Motorcycle engines too :p

Heck, even the big engines are metric; my company van doesn't have a 340 V-8, it has a 5.6 liter. And 750cc sounds a whole lot better than 45 cubic inches.

Besides, only car people really understand engine displacement anyway.

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and Litres are larger

by oldbaritone In reply to Litres

so even if we have 2 full quarts, that's "less than 2 litres"

But most Americans don't even realize it - all they know is that the pint bottle of water is now 16.9 oz, and they don't have a clue that it's 500 ml.

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by AnsuGisalas In reply to and Litres are larger

is hilarious!

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It rather much is

by seanferd In reply to That

a weeping matter.

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