Britons planning on visiting the US can still obtain authorisation free of charge if they complete their application today at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta. The form must be completed at least 72 hours before departure, and can be used for multiple entries for up to two years, after which Britons will be obliged to complete the application again, and pay a further £9.
Anyone who has already received an ESTA can apply again today to extend its validity to the full two years without paying.
The website has reportedly been struggling to cope with the number of Britons trying to beat the deadline.
The US Senate introduced the charge in an attempt to reverse the declining number of visitors to the country – the majority of the money raised will be used to fund promotion of the US as a holiday destination, but some believe it will in fact put people off travelling there.
Earlier this year, John Bruton, the European Commission’s ambassador to Washington, said the fee would be counter-intuitive.
“Only in Alice in Wonderland could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed,” he said.
In an online poll carried out by Telegraph Travel, 44 per cent of readers said that the fee would put them off visiting the US.
The cost of visiting the US will rise further in November, when the latest rises in Air Passenger Duty (APD) – introduced by the previous government – take place. APD for travellers visiting the US will increase by £30 per person, to £120.