The US Department of State (DOS) provided a fairly shocking gift for Australians applying for work visas over the holidays.
On 23 December 2019, without any notice or warning, DOS adjusted the reciprocity schedule and fees for Australian citizens. One of the most important changes to these visas included a significant increase in the reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee.
The motivation for such a change by the US government was to supposedly make US visa fees and visa issuance more in line with Australian fees and visa lengths. This is a review that is being undertaken worldwide.
So what does this mean for Australians applying for a US work visa?
For many works visas this means an increase to the issuance fees paid after a visa is approved after interview. Changes have been 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 prime examples of how this new fee structure will have a large impact on applicants. The issuance fees have increased per visa from $105 USD to $3,574 USD. This is a fee that is 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 has been no change to the underlying E-1 or E-2 visa fee of $205.00 USD.
There have been no changes to the E-3 visas for Australians working in specialty occupations.
If you are unsure how the new fee structure might affect you, please reach out to our team.
While the visa fee change has shocked many, it’s not all bad news!
There have been some good changes to come from these adjustments. 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.
Changes to benefits provided to US citizens may serve as a reason to adjust US reciprocity for Australians seeking US work visas. As seen by this recent announcement, the US has the flexibility to review the visa validity and fees at any time.
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 even have a fully reciprocal E-3 equivalent for US citizens.
Australia is another example of significant changes to reciprocity schedules in 2019, and possibly given the detailed review more changes may occur to reciprocity in other countries in 2020.
If you are unsure how the new fee structure might affect you, please reach out to our team today.