Planning a trip to the U.S.? One of your first considerations will be determining your visa fees. The actual amount you’ll pay depends on the type of visa that you’re applying for, as well as your country of citizenship. Naturally, you should know what these visa costs beforehand so you have an idea of what to expect. In addition to the regular visa application fees, there’s also other costs to consider, such as reciprocity fees, which tend to vary by country.
With that in mind, this guide will provide everything you need to know about the fees associated with obtaining a U.S. visa. We will focus on the different visa categories since the costs tend to differ in each individual case.
Breakdown of Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fees
There are many types of U.S. nonimmigrant visas and there are also different application fees associated with each one. In order to better understand the breakdown of these visa application fees, let’s break them down into petition-based visas and non-petition based visas.
Non-Petition Based Visa Fees (Starts at $160)
Under non-petition based visas, a U.S.-based employer or U.S. resident is not required to file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the visa applicant.
The visa application process is quite straightforward in this instance and involves the applicant filing Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and following through with the rest of the visa requirements and application steps--submitting the required supporting documents, paying the fees, scheduling the interview and attending the interview.
In terms of the costs, non-petition based visas come with an application fee of $160 (U.S. Dollars). Here’s the visas under the non-petition based category:
B-1 and B-2 Visitor Visas
C-1 Visa for applicants transiting through the U.S.
D Visa for crewmembers of airlines or ships
F Visa for students and academic researchers
I Visa for journalists and media personnel
J Exchange Visitor Visa (with the exception of applicants already under the U.S. government’s sponsorship)
M Visa for vocational students
TN and TD Visas for NAFTA professionals (Canadian and Mexican citizens only)
T Visa for human trafficking victims
U Visa for victims of criminal activity
Petition Based Visa Fees (Starts at $190)
Under this category, visa applicants must first have a U.S.-based employer or U.S. resident file a petition with the USCIS prior to submitting their Form DS-160. In some instances, the individual or organization filing the petition on behalf of the visa applicant may also need to file with the U.S. Department of State, or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In addition to the visa application fee, the petitioner is also required to pay a petition fee, which can vary depending on the visa in question. Petition based visas come with an application fee of $190, which applies to the following visa types:
H-type Visas (H-1B visa, H-1B1 visa, H-2A visa, H-2B visa, H-3 visa, H-4 visa) for foreign nationals seeking temporary employment in the U.S.
L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa and L-2 Dependent Visa for their immediate family members
O-type Visa (O-1 visa, O-2 visa, and O-3 visa) for applicants who possess extraordinary capabilities
P Visa for artists, entertainers and athletes
Q Visa for international cultural exchanges
R Visa for religious workers
There are two more visa types under the petition based visa category, but they come with higher application fees so we’ll discuss them separately.
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E-type Visa and K Visa Fees
The E visa category caters to treaty traders/investors seeking to enter the United States under a commerce treaty between the United States and the treaty trader or investor’s country of citizenship. That means eligibility is only open to nationals of countries with whom the U.S. has an active treaty.
It also caters to Australian specialty occupation workers. There are three main types-- E-1 visa for treaty traders; E-2 visa for treaty investors; and E-3 visa for specialty occupation workers from Australia. The visa application fee for this category is $205.
The K visa, on the other hand, caters to a fiancé/fiancée of a U.S. citizen seeking admission into the States to be with his or her spouse. For this reason, the K visa is also known as the fiancé visa. The application fee for this visa type amounts to $265.
Keep in mind that if you entered the U.S. as a foreign fiancé, you cannot apply for U.S. permanent residency and you must have a valid K visa anytime you want to enter the country. Your U.S. citizen spouse will also have to file a petition with the USCIS before you can submit your DS-160 form.
Are there nonimmigrant U.S. visas that don't have application fees?
Yes, there are. There are a number of instances where visa applicants are not required to pay fees. These include:
Applications for certain visa types (A, G, C-2, C-3, NATO, and diplomatic visas)
Applications for J Visitor Exchange visas where the applicant is sponsored by the U.S. government
Applications for the replacement of a machine-readable visa in the event of a faulty original visa and it was not the applicant’s fault
Applications from members of international organizations, such as the United Nations
Applications where the candidate is traveling for charity purposes (conditions apply)
Applications from foreign employees of the U.S. government seeking to enter the states on official business.
Applications from the spouse, children, siblings and parents of a U.S. government employee who was killed in the line of duty, and are traveling to the States for the funeral.
Breakdown of Immigrant Visa Application Fees
Immigrant visas allow an individual to stay in the U.S. indefinitely where they can live and work. It’s basically applying for permanent residence. The important thing to note here is that applicants will have to pay two main types of fees--petition fees and processing fees.
Petition fees are divided into two categories and the amount you’ll pay will depend on the type of form that you submit:
Form I-130, Immigrant Petition for a Relative, which comes with a filing fee of costs $535.00
Form I-600 or Form I-800, Orphan Immediate Relative Petition, which comes with a filing fee of $775.00
For the processing fees, the amount to be paid will depend on the type of visa being petitioned. Here’s a quick breakdown:
The Immediate Family or Relative Preference Immigration Application comes with a processing fee of $325, in addition to the corresponding petition fee.
The Employment-Based Immigration Application comes with a processing fee of $345.00.
Other kinds of immigration applications, including I-360 Self-petitions, special immigrant visas and returning residents, come with a fee of $205.
There’s also certain immigrant visas awarded to Iraqi and Afghan nationals. These visas have no processing fees.
Another fee under U.S. Immigrant visa applications is the Affidavit of Support fee, which amounts to $120. This fee becomes applicable when a U.S. citizen decides to sponsor an immigrant. It is essentially a guarantee that this sponsor will be responsible for the applicant’s financial upkeep while in the U.S. until they can settle down and gain employment.
Reciprocity fees are typically used to eliminate the cost difference when compared to the visa issuance fees charged by other countries to American citizens seeking to enter their country, as well as for border crossing cards. These fees only apply to nonimmigrant U.S. visa applications. Reciprocity fees will be charged in addition to regular visa application fees and are usually paid at the start of the application process or before the applicant can get their passport back from the U.S. Embassy in their home country.
Reciprocity fee amounts will vary depending on where the applicant is from. In Nigeria, for instance, reciprocity fees range from $80 to $300 based on the visa type. This new fee regime took effect in August 2019 and is said to be in response to the Nigerian government’s refusal to adjust the issuance fees currently charged to American visa applicants. The executive order authorizing the charge of reciprocity fees reads:
“If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.”
What are border crossing card fees?
This typically applies to Mexican citizens when crossing the border into the U.S. and the amount payable depends on the age of the candidate. Those who are 15 years or older are required to pay $160 for their border crossing card, while those below the age of 15 are only required to pay $16. This card is valid for 10 years.
Exceptions to Reciprocity Fees
There are certain instances where an applicant may be exempted from paying the reciprocity fees. These include:
If the applicant is traveling for charitable purposes
If the applicant is transiting to the UN Headquarters in New York
If the applicant is part of a U.S. government-sponsored program
Diversity Visa Fees
The diversity visa fees apply to candidates seeking a U.S. immigrant visa through a lottery program. Applications for the lottery visa usually begin in November and winners are selected every year. There’s an application fee of $330.00 which must be paid prior to submitting the online application
Fees for Special Visa Services
Certain items classify as special services and come with their respective fees. These include:
Applications to determine returning resident status through Form DS-117, which comes with a fee of $180.00
Applications for two-year residency period waiver through Form DS-3035, which comes with a fee of $120
Applying for visa ineligibility waiver which comes with a fee of $930
Additional Visa Costs
In addition to the applicable visa fees discussed above, there are also a number of other fees that you should know about. They are the fraud and detection fees which amount to $500. However, they only apply to certain visa categories, such as the L-1 visa.
Individuals and organizations petitioning on behalf of a foreign temporary worker should also be aware that there is a $4,500.00 petitioning fee as stipulated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-113). However, this is only applicable where the organization is petitioning for multiple applicants, such as under the L-1 blanket petition, or in cases where more than 50% of the employees in that organization are in the U.S. on H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant status.
Visa Fees Payment Information
Keep in mind that all fees listed are in U.S. dollars, though payments may be made in your country’s local currency at the prevailing exchange rate on that day. If you’re paying in cash, make sure to remove all damaged bills as this may be grounds for rejection.
In some cases, personal checks will not be accepted, though Traveler’s checks may be acceptable and you must sign it in the presence of the consular cashier. International credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) are also acceptable for visa fee payments.
Lastly, keep in mind that these visa fees are generally good for one year from your appointment date and are nonrefundable, regardless of the final decision on your application.
Understanding your visa application fees is one of the first steps towards planning your travel to the U.S. And while this guide has been intended to provide some much-needed answers, it’s also important to consider how your living conditions will be once you get to the States.
For instance, newcomers may be surprised to know that credit history is a big deal in the U.S. In fact, access to access to essentials like apartment rentals, phone plans, credit cards, car leases and many other credit services typically depend on having a good credit score. However, since your credit history from your home country cannot be transferred to the U.S., having a credit score usually means building one from scratch.
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