UNITED STATES – U.S. Department of State Raises Visa Application Fees

Starting on June 4, 2010, U.S. visa application fees are scheduled to increase.  Instead of the current flat fee of $131 that was established on January 1, 2008, a new tiered structure is set to be implemented and will mandate varying fee amounts based on the visa type.   The new fee schedule will be as follows:

$140 – Non Petition-Based Visas

  • B-1/B-2 Visas for Tourists and Business Visitors
  • J Visas for Exchange Visitors
  • F Visas for Academic Students
  • M Visas for Vocational Students

$150 – Petition-Based Visas

  • H-1B Visas for Specialty Occupation Workers
  • H-3 Visas for Trainees
  • L Visas for Intracompany Transferees
  • O Visas for Extraordinary Ability Workers
  • P Visas for Athletes, Artists and Entertainers
  • Q Visas for International Cultural Exchange Visitors
  • R Visas for Religious Workers

$350 – K Visas for Fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens

$390 – E Visas for Temporary Workers, Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors

After conducting an analysis of its cost in processing visa applications, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) determined that it was not covering its costs.  The average cost per visa application averaged out to approximately $136.93, which is nearly $6.00 more than the current visa application fee of $131.  Furthermore, the fee analysis detected higher costs for certain types of visa applications, which is why the tiered fee schedule is being implemented.

The reason given for the difference between non petition-based visas and petition-based visas is that the unit cost for petition-based cases is higher.  This is due to the costs of receiving petition information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), conducting reviews of government and commercial databases to confirm the existence of the petitioning employer, and entering that data into the Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) database.

The DOS has asserted that K visa applications for fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens and E visa applications for Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors are significantly higher because adjudicating them requires a review of extensive documentation and a more in-depth interview of applicants than other types of visa applications.  It is interesting that in discussing its rationale for the higher $390 fee for E-3 workers from Australia, the DOS has said that E-3 visa applications require the consular adjudicator to both determine whether the employment falls under the E-3 program and assess the eligibility of the applicant.  This assessment is very similar to what consular adjudicators must do for Blanket L visa applicants, yet these individuals apparently fall under the lower $150 tier.

Visa applications for Trade Nafta (TN) professionals from Mexico do not seem to be contemplated in the interim final rule provided in the Federal Register.  However, under the rationale described above for the higher fee on petition-based visa applications, it would be logical for an initial visa application to fall under the lower $140 fee since the consular post does not receive information from DHS, nor is PIMS implicated.  However, under the rationale given for the higher E-3 fee, TN visa applicants could also be placed at the highest $390 tier.  It remains to be seen how the DOS will treat TN visa applicants.

Along with the publication of the interim final rule in the Federal Register, DOS will also re-open public comments for an additional 60 days. At the conclusion of that period, DOS will consider public comments and publish a final rule.