The current administration has recently announced a proposal to increase the prices for virtually all nonimmigrant visas. According to government officials, the rise in prices is necessary in order to provide immigration services with needed funding. However, critics of the proposal suggest that this policy could provide a financial barrier to those seeking to enter the U.S.
The Department of State’s proposed rule states that the U.S. government intends to make adjustments to the Consular Services of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Schedule of Fees for most application fees for nonimmigrant visas.
The proposed increases would involve a rise to $245 for visa application fees from the original $160. Fees for R, Q, P, O, L, and H visa applications will rise to $310 from the original $190. Border crossing cards used by Mexican nationals to cross border regions of the U.S. will rise from $160 to $245 under the plan.
Public comments for this proposal will be accepted until February 28th, 2022. If the proposal progresses and becomes a final rule, these changes are anticipated to enter effect in September of this year.
This is not the first time that the immigration system has expressed the need for more funds. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Jaddou has recently expressed that the agency is suffering from severe funding issues and that it was critical for the agency to acquire additional resources in order to solve the multiple crises in which they are currently being faced with. This includes reducing the considerable processing times for services and the unprecedented backlog of requests.
This fee increase continues the ongoing struggle between Congress and the USCIS on the appropriate level of funding for the agency. In 2020, the agency was granted $128 million in appropriations, and some have suggested increasing appropriations to $474 million in FY2022. However, even with the current level of appropriations, the USCIS has continued to operate at a loss. In fact, in 2020, the USCIS requested a bailout from congress of $1.2 billion and just barely managed to avoid furloughs of employees. In response to the agency’s continuing struggles, Jaddou has stated that the increase in fees will be critical should the agency continue to be primarily fee-funded.
However, critics have expressed concerns about raising fees for visas at a time in which the U.S. is attempting to encourage immigration. This added level of discouragement is coupled with the ongoing wait times, which in many cases extend from six months to up to a year for both business and travel-related visas. This could discourage such travel when it is already at an all-time low.
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