DOS Changes Visa Application Fees24 Sep 2014
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced major changes to immigrant and nonimmigrant visa fees charged to applicants for visa “stamps” at U.S. embassies and consulates. The new fee structure took effect on September 12, 2014, and the DOS has provided instructions for those with pending visa cases who paid visa fees prior to the changes going into effect. Note that these changes relate to DOS visa fees – not to USCIS case filing fees.
Comments Until 26.Oct.2014
Although these new fees are already in place, stakeholders are permitted to comment on the interim final rule that lays out the fee structure. Comments will be accepted through October 26, 2014.
Reason for Fee Changes: Cost Recovery
The DOS sets visa application fees based on calculations of full cost recovery. This means that the agency seeks to cover the full cost of processing applications for visas and related services through user fees, with the goal of passing none of the cost on to U.S. taxpayers. To accomplish this, the DOS conducts studies that analyze, among other factors, the amount of time employees devote to the various case types. The DOS uses this data to calculate new fees based on a cost-of-service model.
Changes in Nonimmigrant Fees
The DOS notes that the fees for E (treaty trader and treaty investor) visa application will decrease from $270 to $205. Fees for processing K (fiancé/es and certain spouses of U.S. citizens) will be increased from $240 to $265. Certain J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a two-year, home-country residency requirement; the fee for requesting a waiver of this requirement is being reduced from $215 to $120.
Changes in Immigrant Fees
The DOS increased the fees significantly for immigrant visas based on family-based petitions (including I-130, I-600, and I-800 petitions). Fees for immigrant visa applications for these categories will rise from $230 to $325. Applicants for immigrant visas who rely on approved I-140 and I-526 petitions will see their fees drop from $405 to $345. Other immigrant visa applications will be reduced from $220 to $205.
In addition to the above, DOS has staff at the National Visa Center (NVC), who review affidavits of support for certain immigrant visa cases. The fee for this service is increasing from $88 to $120.
Increase in Immigrant Visa Security Surcharge
The visa security surcharge, which applies to all visa applicants except those who are statutorily exempted from paying fees, is increasing from $75 to $100. This fee is used to offset portions of the immigrant visa process that are tied to increased U.S. border protection efforts, and is included in the immigrant visa fee. It is not a separate surcharge.
Fees for Lawful Permanent Residents
If a lawful permanent resident (or LPR) travels overseas without a reentry permit and remains outside of the United States for more than a year, the individual can, in limited situations, apply for a returning resident (SB1) visa. This application process includes a fee that is being lowered from $275 to $180.
Biggest Increase: Citizenship Renunciation Fees
Due to an initial underestimation of the amount of work required for processing requests by U.S. citizens to renounce their citizenship, the DOS is dramatically increasing the fee for this service. Renunciation is a complicated process, and there has been a recent uptick in such requests. As a result, the DOS raised this fee from $450 to $2,350, to reflect the research and work required.
Fees Already Paid?
The DOS has a web page that addresses questions about the timing of payments and the effect of the fee changes. If a visa application fee was paid before September 12, 2014, and the visa interview will occur on or before December 11, 2014, no additional fees will be collected from the applicant. If an application fee is paid before September 12, 2014, but the interview will occur on or after December 12, 2014, the applicant will be responsible for paying the difference between a lower fee payment and any increased fee. However, the DOS will not issue any refunds for fees paid in instances where the application fee has since decreased.
The visa application process is designed to place the financial responsibility on visa applicants, rather than U.S. taxpayers. Periodic reassessment of the costs involved in visa processing is a logical method for updating the fees. MurthyDotCom will provide new information to readers if and when additional fee changes are made.
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