On December 14, 2009, the Department of State published a proposed rule in
the Federal Register to increase the nonimmigrant visa application processing
fees, also called the Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fee, and Border Crossing
Card (BCC) fees. The proposed rule also establishes a tiered structure
with separate fees for different visa categories.
The Department is proposing
the increase to ensure sufficient resources to cover the increasing cost of
processing nonimmigrant visas (NIVs). This
increase applies both to non-immigrant visas placed in passports and to border
crossing cards issued to certain adult applicants in Mexico.
The new tiered
fee structure was created to cover the higher unit costs for processing certain
categories of nonimmigrant visas that are more complicated and require more
in-depth consideration than most other categories of nonimmigrant visas U.S.
law requires the Department to attempt to recover the cost of processing non-immigrant
visas through the collection of the application fees. Because of ongoing process
and security enhancements, the $131 fee set on January 1, 2008 is lower than
the current, actual cost of processing non-immigrant visas.
Under the proposed
rule, applicants for all visas that are not petition-based, including B1/B2
tourist and business visitor visas and all student and exchange-visitor visas,
would pay a fee of $140.
Applicants for petition-based visas would pay an application
fee of $150. These
- H visa for temporary workers and trainees
- L visa for Intracompany transferees
- O visa for aliens with extraordinary ability
- P visa for athletes, artists and entertainers
- Q visa for international cultural exchange visitors
- R visa for religious occupations
The application fee for K visas
for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens would
be $350. The fee for E visas
for treaty-traders and treaty-investors would be $390.
The Department will not
begin collecting the new proposed fees until it considers public comments and
publishes a final rule.
FAQs on DOS’ Proposed Rule to Increase
the Non-Immigrant Visa Application Fees
Q: Why is the Department of State proposing to increase the basic
nonimmigrant visa application fee to $140 from its current $131?
The Department is required by law to recover the cost of processing nonimmigrant
visas through the collection of the MRV fee. Periodically, independent
contractors conduct a Cost of Service Study to determine direct and indirect
costs to the U.S. Government of providing consular services, such as nonimmigrant
visas. Such a study was completed in June using an activity-based costing
model, which is standard for estimating the cost of government services. The
Study determined that the cost of accepting, adjudicating, and issuing nonimmigrant
visas will be greater than $131 in Fiscal Year 2010, which began October 1,
2009. Also, since the last fee increase in 2008, there have been new
security-related costs, new IT systems have been put in place, and there is
a new mandate from Congress to charge nonimmigrant visa applicants $1 to support
programs to combat trafficking in persons.
Q: When do the new processing fees go into effect?
A: The Department is proposing these new fees in a
Federal Register notice, but will not implement them until it reviews and considers
any comments received from the public and publishes a final rule. Applicants
must start paying the new processing fees once the Department publishes that
second, final rule.
Q: Why is the Department of State establishing new,
higher fees for certain types of nonimmigrant visas which previously cost $131,
the same as all other nonimmigrant visas?
An independent study of consular operations costs shows that certain categories
of nonimmigrant visas are more complicated and require more in-depth consideration
than most other categories of nonimmigrant visas. Therefore, those categories
of nonimmigrant visas have higher unit costs. The cost of accepting,
adjudicating, and issuing the following categories of visas are appreciably
higher than for other categories: E (treaty trader and investor); H (temporary
worker or trainee); K (fiancé(e));
L (Intracompany transferee); O (alien with extraordinary ability); P (athlete,
artist or entertainer); Q (international cultural exchange visitors); and R
(religious worker). Each of these visa categories requires a review of
extensive documentation and a more in-depth interview of the applicant than
other categories, such as tourists.
Q: Will this fee increase discourage people from traveling to the
A: The proposed fees accurately
reflect the processing costs incurred and regulations require full cost recovery
through fees. Past
increases in nonimmigrant visa fees did not negatively impact the number of
applications received worldwide. The Department is aware that this fee
increase may suppress the demand for nonimmigrant visas in some countries. However,
the cost is still small compared to the cost of round-trip airfare from most
countries to the United States. Most visas issued worldwide are tourist
visas with a validity of ten years, meaning the bearer can visit the United
States as often as he or she likes for ten years.
Q: Will other countries
respond by increasing the visa fees they charge American citizens?
While some countries may increase visa fees, we expect many will not because,
under the principle of reciprocity, we will be able to offset the nonimmigrant
fees increase with a simultaneous reduction in reciprocity fees. For
some countries, the combined total of nonimmigrant visa fees and reciprocal
issuance fees will remain the same.
Q: How does this MRV processing
fee differ from reciprocal issuance fees?
The MRV processing fee is paid by all visa applicants, worldwide, with certain
limited exceptions, for example, those pertaining to government officials. It
must be paid in advance, whether or not the visa is granted. The reciprocal
issuance fee is an additional charge paid by visa applicants from certain countries
in certain categories and is based on similar fees U.S. citizens are charged
for visas to visit those countries. The
reciprocity fee is charged only if the visa is granted.