Installment One Hundred and Thirty-One
In Fiscal Year 2012, the Department of State estimates it will process 10.5 million nonimmigrant visas and one million immigrant visas. Based on an update to the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ cost-of-service model conducted in December 2011, we are adjusting the fees for processing these visas to better reflect the costs of providing these services. On April 13, 2012, we will adjust nonimmigrant and immigrant visa processing fees.
Q: What are the new visa processing fees?
Nonimmigrant Visa Processing Fees Immigrant Visa
Q: Why is the Department of State increasing the basic nonimmigrant visa application fee to $160 from its current amount of $140?
We are required by law to recover the cost of processing nonimmigrant visas through the collection of visa application processing fees, also called Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fees. The cost-of-service model is updated annually to determine direct and indirect costs to the U.S. government when providing all consular services, such as nonimmigrant visa processing. This update was completed in December 2011 using an activity-based cost model, which is standard for estimating the cost of government services.
The activity-based cost model takes into account all costs to the U.S. government, including a major cost driver: visa workload volume. Items that impact the model include an increase in the number of visas processed or new regulations requiring additional security screenings. The model also includes costs of major Department initiatives, particularly those related to meeting the increase in demand for nonimmigrant visas.
The $160 fee also includes the unrecovered costs of processing Border Crossing Cards for certain Mexican citizen minors. By law, the fees for Border Crossing Cards for minors are frozen at $13 (not including other statutory surcharges). However, the cost of processing these applications is much greater.
Q: What if I already paid my fee, for an appointment after April 13, 2012?
Applicants will be charged the fee in effect on the day of payment. For fees that are increasing, receipts for payments made prior to the fee changes will be accepted for 90 days after the fee takes effect, or through July 12, 2012. In categories where fees are declining, no refunds will be available for those who paid prior to the effective date; however, these receipts are valid for the usual one year from the date of issuance.
Q: Why is the Department establishing new, higher fees for certain types of nonimmigrant visas, while at the same time decreasing the fees for E and K visas?
The December 2011 cost-of-service model update shows that certain categories of nonimmigrant visas cost more to process than other categories of nonimmigrant visas. The new fees reflect the costs of each visa service.
Q: Why are the fees for immigrant visas decreasing?
For the first time, the cost-of-service model calculated services performed on behalf of other federal agencies, allowing the Department of State to seek reimbursement from those agencies under the Economy Act. This has had a considerable impact on our costs when processing immigrant visas, because much of this work intersects with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services’ immigration process. Furthermore, we expect the cost of processing immigrant visas to remain stable, while the volume will increase, leading to lower costs in the short term. As a result, immigrant visa processing fees have decreased.
Q: Why are you changing the fees only two years after the previous increase?
Our last cost-of-service study was conducted in 2009. That study only incorporated two years of projected costs. The review undertaken in 2011 incorporated five years of projected costs, which allowed us to capture long-term costs.
This update also calculates services performed on behalf of other federal agencies for which the Department began receiving reimbursement under the Economy Act. The new fees provide a more accurate picture of the net costs to the Department for processing visas.
Q: Will this fee increase discourage people from traveling to the United States?
The proposed fees accurately reflect the processing costs we incur, 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 cost is still small compared to the cost of round-trip airfare from most countries to the United States. In addition, the total cost of a tourist visa, when averaged over ten years, is $16 per year. (Note: Ten years is the validity period for visas issued to most applicants based on reciprocal treatment by their respective countries of American citizens.)
“Ask the Consul” is a fortnightly column from the U.S. Embassy answering questions about U.S. immigration law and visa issues. If you have a general question about visa policy please email it to us at AskGeorge@state.gov. We select questions every other week and publish the answers in Stabroek News and on our website at http://georgetown.usembassy.gov/ask-the-consul.html For more information about visas please see http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov or http://georgetown.usembassy.gov/. Other than the questions we select, we DO NOT respond to questions sent to Ask the Consul. Please contact the visa inquiries unit (email email@example.com or call 225-7965 between 8 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday) if you have questions about a specific case.