What is a United States Visa Issuance Fee?
The issuance fee (or reciprocity fee) is a fee charged by the US Department of State after a visa has been approved, for specific visa classes. The fee is distinct from a visa application fee, which is charged during the process of lodgment.
The fee is 'based on the principle of reciprocity' where if a foreign country charges a visa issuance fee to a US Citizen, the US State Department will determine an equivalent fee, for a visa of similar function.
The reciprocity fee is set on a per country basis, and is designed to set a standard of equivalence for fees between foreign countries and the United States.
What US Visas require an Issuance Fee for Australian Citizens?
The following visa classes have the current reciprocity fee schedule set for Citizens of Australian who are approved for the following visa classes.
It is important to note that many of the visa classes on this list are rarely or seldom used by Australian Citizens or not applicable, though a reciprocity fee schedule across all visa types and classes is provided by the US Department of State.
US Department of State (DOS) Adjustment of Visa Reciprocity Fees
In December 2019, without notice or warning, DOS adjusted the reciprocity schedule and fees for Australian citizens. The most important change included a significant increase in the reciprocity fee.
The motivation for the change by the US government, was to make US visa fees and visa issuance more in line with Australian migration fees and visa lengths. This was the result of a review that been undertaken worldwide and resulted in significantly higher fees for Australian Citizens looking to move to the United States
This indicated that issuance fees will be adjusted ongoing, and the US State Department since has taken a much more focused approach to issuance fees.
How Do Visa Issuance Fees Effect Australians Applying for a US Work Visa?
For many works visas, the 2019 change meant an increase in the issuance fees paid after a visa is approved. Changes were made for certain E-1 and E-2, F, H, L, and R visa categories.
The E-1 (Treaty Trader) and E-2 (Treaty Investor) visas are examples of how this new fee structure will had a significant impact on applicants.The issuance fee increased per visa from $105 USD to $3,464 USD.
The issuance fee, is only paid if a visa is approved. The fee is for primary and dependent applicants (spouse and minor children) and must be paid per visa approval.
There was no change at the time to the underlying E-1 or E-2 visa application fee of $205 USD.
There have been no change to the E-3 visa for Australians working in specialty occupations. where there is no issuance fee. This is primarily because there is no equivalent to the E-3 visa for United States citizens coming to Australia. The application fee increased in April 2023 from $205 USD to $315 USD.
Visa Classes That Benefited from the Changes
There have been some beneficial changes from these adjustments in December 2019. There was an adjustment to B visas to extend the validity of B1, B2, and B1/B2 visas from 12 months to 5 years for no additional fee. Previously, B visas required an issuance fee of $25.00 USD for a 5-year visa.
Adjustment of US Reciprocity for Australians Seeking US Work Visas Moving Forward
Executive Order 13780, which was signed by the President in March 2017, required the Department of State to undertake a worldwide review of nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements and arrangements. During that review, the Department of State noted discrepancies between Australia’s visa regime and that of the United States. U.S. law requires U.S. visa fees and validities to be based, insofar as practicable, on the treatment afforded to U.S. citizens. Given that Australia was unable to change its visa regime, the United States is required by law to increase fees for certain visa categories to match Australia’s practices.
The Australian government has had comparatively high visa fees on work-related visas in the recent past and has sought to raise them in the last several years. For example, the equivalent for many types of US work visas is the subclass 482 visa (which replaced the 457 short term work visa), which can cost well over $15,000 AUD in application fees and levies for a family of four to move to work in Australia.
In review of reciprocity and equivalency of visas, Australia does not have a fully reciprocal E-3 equivalent for US citizens.
Australia is another example of significant changes to reciprocity schedules in 2019 and given the detailed review, more frequent changes may occur to reciprocity fee in other countries moving forward.
It is not clear how often the US Administration intends to review and adjust these fees, though Worldwide Migration Partners is keeping an eye on future developments, especially with the recent 2023 increases in visa costs by the the Australian Department of Home Affairs.
If you are unsure how the new fee structure might affect you, please reach out to our team today.
About The Author
Melissa Vincenty is a U.S. Attorney, a registered Australian Migration Agent and the founder and managing director of Worldwide Migration Partners. Melissa has over 25 years of experience in U.S. Immigration Law, including practising at the world’s largest U.S. Immigration Firm and more than 15 years as a Country Specialist (China and Tibet) for Amnesty International USA.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is general in nature, may not, and is not intended to constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information, and is for general informational purposes only. It does not represent legal advice specific to any individual/s situation, and should not be relied on as such. Please contact us for a consultation for legal advice for your individual circumstances.