Visa issuance fees and validity periods are set based on reciprocity – that is, if one country charges U.S. citizens $50 to receive a visa, then the U.S. will charge citizens of that country a similar amount for a U.S. visa. In 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13780, which requires that the U.S. Department of State undertake a worldwide review of reciprocity arrangements with a view to updating any discrepancies.
Without notice – and effective immediately on December 23, 2019 – the State Department’s visa reciprocity chart was updated to reflect new visa fees for Australian citizens applying for many categories of nonimmigrant visas, as well as some changes in visa validity periods. The affected visa types are in the E, F, H, L and R categories. Below is a chart highlighting the most significant changes to routinely used visa categories:
|Visa category:||New fee in USD:||Prior fee in USD:||New visa validity period:||Prior visa validity period:|
|E-1||$3,574||$105||48 months||48 months|
|E-2||$3,574||$105||48 months||48 months|
|H-1B||$1,295||$105||60 months||60 months|
|H-4||$1,295||$105||60 months||60 months|
|L-1 (blanket and individual)||$1,790 (incl. anti-fraud fee)||$105||48 months||60 months|
|L-2||$1,790||$105||48 months||60 months|
Interestingly, there has been no change to the nonimmigrant E-3 visa category, the category reserved for Australian citizen professionals who will work in a specialty occupation in the U.S. This visa category still has no issuance fee, and the maximum visa validity period remains at 24 months.
While most visa reciprocity fees for Australian citizens increased or stayed the same, there is one category for which the fee was reduced: The fee for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa went down from $25 to $0.
Considerations for Australian Travelers
This surprising and significant change in the reciprocity schedule serves as a reminder to routinely check visa issuance fees and validity periods to avoid unpleasant surprises. For Australian citizens who do not travel internationally on a regular basis and are already in the U.S., it may now be advantageous from a fee standpoint to consider applying to extend status in-country rather than traveling to apply for a new visa. This should, of course, be given appropriate weight when considering multiple factors that play a role in deciding when and how to extend one’s ability to stay in the U.S. beyond the initial or most recent admission period.