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State Department to increase ‘nonimmigrant’ visa fees

- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2010

The State Department said Monday it plans to increase entry visa fees from the current $131 to $140 for tourists and students and to $150 for workers, beginning June 4.

Only nonimmigrant — or visitors' — visas will be affected by the increase, although fees for U.S. passports and permanent-resident cards are under review, the department said in a statement.

"The Department is required to recover, as far as possible, the cost of processing nonimmigrant visas through the collection of the application fees," it said. "For a number of reasons, including new security enhancements, the $131 fee set on Jan. 1, 2008, no longer covers the current, actual cost of processing nonimmigrant visas."

Breaking down nonimmigrant fees depending on visa type is new and was done because some categories are "more complicated and require more in-depth consideration," the department said.

The $140 fee applies to visitors who come to the United States for tourism, business or study. Work and religious visas will cost $150. Fiances of American citizens who need to arrive in the U.S. before they receive a green card will have to pay $350.

The fee for treaty traders and treaty investors will be $390. Treaty traders and treaty investors are foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States to conduct substantial commerce under certain bilateral trade agreements.

"This increase applies both to nonimmigrant visas placed in passports and to border-crossing cards issued to certain applicants in Mexico," the State Department said.

News about the fee increases spread quickly around the world on Monday, with websites in several countries publishing stories about them, including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Poland and Zambia.

Although those stories reported the news and offered no commentary, the increases are likely to prompt protests overseas: The fees are non-refundable and must be paid even if a visa application is rejected. In many countries, $140 equals several months' pay, if not more.

In addition, many applicants complain that they have to spend much more money on travel to their capital or another big city, so they can appear at a U.S. consulate for an interview.

At the same time, the U.S. government has been spending unprecedented resources on designing new systems for background security checks of visa applicants, including the use of biometrics and other new features.

The State Department also has increased the consular staff at many posts abroad to cope with the heavier workload.

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