State Department Proposes Fee Increase for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants

On December 14, 2009, the U.S. Department of State published a Federal Register notice indicating its intention to raise fees for nonimmigrant visa applicants. The proposed increases would apply to certain categories of nonimmigrant visas, some petition-based, some not. It also would affect some Mexican minors, who would pay $1 more for a new border-crossing card (BCC). The U.S. State Department (DOS) said it is seeking the increases to cover additional costs associated with processing the machine-readable visas (MRVs) and BCCs that are required for several nonimmigrant visa categories. [See “Proposed Rule: Schedule of Fees for Consular Services, Department of State and Overseas Embassies and Consulates, 74 Fed. Reg. 66076 (14.Dec.2009).]

A recent study determined that the DOS’s current fees were insufficient to cover the cost of nonimmigrant visa services. Federal law requires DOS to recover these costs through application fees. Rather than simply increasing fees across the board, the proposed fee structure takes a graduated approach because certain visa categories require more extensive documentation and in-depth review than others, the DOS said in its Federal Register notice.

The proposal would increase fees for:

•    the BCC by $1, to $14, for Mexican border crossers under the age of 15, if a parent or guardian has – or is applying for – a BCC

•    non petition-based visas – such as B-1/B-2 tourist and business visitor visas, as well as all student and exchange-visitor visas – to $140, from the current $131 fee set in January, 2008

•    petition-based visa applications to $150, for

o    H visa for temporary workers and trainees
o    L visa for intra-company transferees
o    O visa for aliens with extraordinary ability
o    P visa for athletes, artists, and entertainers
o    Q visa for international cultural exchange visitors, and
o    R visa for religious occupations

•    K visas for fiance/es of U.S. citizens, to $350

•    E visas, for treaty-traders and treaty-investors, to $390

The DOS will allow 60 days for public comments on the proposed fee hikes, and the regulations will take effect after the comment period expires, when the State Department has published its final rule.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.