How Much Is A Visa To The USA?
If you are a non-US national looking to temporarily travel to the United States you will need to consider the different types of non-immigrant visa available and the entry requirements for each. You may even qualify for visa-free travel.
The following guide not only looks at the different types of non-immigrant visa that you may be eligible for, as well as the criteria for travelling without a visa, it also answers the all-important question: “How much is a visa to the USA?”.
What are the different types of visitor visa?
There are various different types of non-immigrant visa available. However, the type of visa that you require will depend on the primary purpose for your trip and, in some cases, the likely duration of your stay.
Where you are travelling to the United States for the purpose of business or pleasure, unless you are eligible to enter the US visa-free, or you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda, the two main types of non-immigrant visitor visa are:
- B-1 visa: for those travelling to the US temporarily to engage in business activities.
- B-2 visa: for those travelling to the US temporarily to visit friends and family, or for the purposes of tourism.
That said, you can also undertake additional activities under a B-2 visa, namely undergoing medical treatment, undertaking a short course of study, or even performing as an amateur entertainer or athlete, provided you will not be paid.
The B-1 business visa, on the other hand, will allow you to temporarily engage in business activities, such as attending a conference or seminar, or other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. Similarly, however, as with the B-2 visa, the B-1 visa will not generally allow for gainful employment.
Further, the visitor visa is only usually valid for a period of up to six months. As such, if your proposed activity falls outside these parameters or timescale, a different type of visa, such as a non-immigrant work visa, will be required.
Different types of US work visa
There are various non-immigrant work visas to choose from, all depending on your circumstances and whether you meet the eligibility criteria for any given category. These include the following:
- E-1/E-2 visa: for overseas traders or investors, or employees of the principal trader/investor, looking to come to the United States for the purpose of carrying out international trade or to invest in a US enterprise.
- L-1A/L-1B visa: for overseas employees of multinational organisations looking to transfer within the same company to an affiliated US office, or to establish a new office, where the employee works in an executive or managerial role, or the employee has specialised knowledge of the employer’s products, processes and procedures.
- H-1B visa: for overseas graduates, or experienced professionals, looking to work in a speciality occupation that requires theoretical or technical expertise, and for whom they have a US sponsor.
- O-1A/O-1B visa: for overseas individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics or arts, or who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, looking to come to the United States to work in their field and for whom they have a US sponsor.
Please note, where a US employer or agent is required to sponsor you, these are commonly referred to as petition-based visas.
How to apply for a visa to the USA
If you are a non-US national looking to travel to the USA, and you are not eligible for visa-free travel, you will need to complete Form DS-160. This is the application form for seeking permission to travel to the United States under a non-immigrant visa, from a business or tourist visa to a temporary work visa.
Consular officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a face-to-face interview, will determine your eligibility for a non-immigrant visa.
However, in the case of many non-immigrant work visas, such as the L-1A or L-1B visas, you will need a US employer to first file a petition on your behalf with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), typically using Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.
In other cases, for example, as with the H-1B visa, your prospective employer will also be required to obtain a labor certification, or other approval from the Department of Labor, before filing the petition with USCIS.
How much is a visa to the USA?
The answer to the all-important question of “How much is a visa to the USA?” will very much depend on the nature of the visa in question, and whether or not a sponsor is required to file a petition on your behalf.
The processing fees for non-immigrant visa applications are tiered, based on the visa category for which you are applying. For a non-petition based non-immigrant visa the fee is $160.00. This includes the B-1 and B-2 visitors visa.
For a petition-based non-immigrant work visa, including the H, L and O visas, the fee is $190, whereas the cost for filing a visa application for an E visa is $205.00.
The non-immigrant visa application processing fees are non-refundable and non-transferable, regardless of whether the visa is ultimately issued or refused. Once your visa is approved, you may also need to pay what’s known as a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality.
The cost of filing Form I-129 petition is currently set at $460. Your sponsor may also be liable to pay additional fees including a Border Security Act fee, a Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and an American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee.
Can I travel visa-free to the USA?
In some circumstances you may be eligible to enter the United States without a visa if you meet the requirements for the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows citizens of 38 countries, including the UK, to travel to the US without a visa for business, tourism or for transit to another country for up to 90 days.
The VWP is intended for occasional short visits to the USA. Visa-free travel does not, however, include those who plan to study, work or remain in the country for more than 90 days. If you wish to stay for longer, or undertake an activity that falls outside those permitted under the VWP, you will need to apply for a visa.
Travellers that qualify under the VWP must still obtain authorisation to enter the USA using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). You will generally be granted authorisation if you are a citizen of one of the listed VWP partner countries and you hold a valid electronic passport containing an electronic chip.
How much is visa-free travel to the USA?
To apply for visa-free travel you should complete an online pre-registration form on the ESTA website. It is advised by the US Customs and Border Patrol that you do this at least 72 hours before departure.
The cost of this is just $21 per application. If your application is denied, however, you will need to make an application for a non-immigrant visa and pay the associated costs of that, not to mention endure the additional processing time of up to several weeks or months.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.