Working Visa USA Cost for Applicants
If you are a non-US national applying for a US work visa, it will be important to understand the costs that will be incurred. The following guide looks at visa application fees, together with any other associated costs when applying for a nonimmigrant visa to work in the USA for a time-limited period.
Working visa USA cost of different types of visa
A nonimmigrant visa is for applicants with permanent residence outside the United States, but who wish to travel to the USA on a temporary, or time-limited, basis for a specific purpose, including to work.
There are various different categories of nonimmigrant work visa: both petition and non-petition based. A petition-based work visa typically requires the offer of a job from a US sponsor, and for that sponsor to be willing and able to file Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) on behalf of the visa applicant with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Applying for a non-petition based visa, however, is much more straightforward, whereby the applicant can file for a visa using Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) without the need for approval first from USCIS.
By way of example, the B-1 visa is a non-petition based visa specifically aimed at business visitors, and will cover you if you are travelling to the USA to engage in business activities, such as attending a conference or seminar, or other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature.
However, where the B-1 visa does not cover your proposed business activity, such as for gainful employment, a petition-based work visa will be required.
Working visa USA cost: non-petition based visa fees
The processing fees for nonimmigrant visa applications are tiered, based on the visa category for which you are applying. For a non-petition based nonimmigrant visa the fee is $160.00. This includes the B-1 visa for business visitors.
It also includes the following:
- D visa – for crew members working on board commercial sea vessels or international airlines in the United States.
- I visa – for members of the foreign media, press and radio.
- TN visa – for professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States under NAFTA to engage in business activities at a professional level, for example, accountants, engineers and lawyers.
Working visa USA cost: petition-based visa fees
For a petition-based nonimmigrant work visa the fee is $190. This includes, but is not limited to, the following visa categories:
- H-1B visa – for those working in a speciality occupation that requires theoretical or technical expertise, requiring a higher education degree or its equivalent. This includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability, as well as government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense.
- L visa – for intracompany transferees, ie; for employees of a multinational company or organisation who is being transferred to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the United States.
- O visa – for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television fields, demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, to work in their field of expertise.
- P visa – for athletes or members of an entertainment group, to perform at a specific athletic competition or as a member of a group, at an internationally recognised level of sustained performance. This also includes the support personnel of athletes or group members.
- R – for religious workers coming to the United States temporarily to be employed as a minister, or in another religious vocation or occupation.
Fees for E-visas
Only a few nonimmigrant classifications allow you to obtain permission to undertake paid work in the United States without an employer having first filed a petition on your behalf. Such classifications include the nonimmigrant E-visas.
These are for overseas entrepreneurs either looking to trade from within the United States, or wanting to invest in a US business. The E1 visa is for overseas traders who have established trade links with the United States and are looking to expand further into the US market, while an E2 visa is for overseas investors looking to buy or invest in a US enterprise.
In either case, you must be a national of a country with which the USA maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. The cost for filing a visa application for a Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor visa is $205.00.
Visa fee exemptions
The nonimmigrant visa application processing fees are non-refundable and non-transferable, regardless of whether the visa is ultimately issued or refused, and must be paid by every applicant, save except where they are not required to by law. The exemptions are limited, but include the following:
- Diplomatic passport holders (A visas)
- Official passport holders applying for official visas
- Employees of designated international organisations (G visas)
- Foreign military personnel stationed in the US (NATO visas)
- Replacement of machine-readable visas when the original visa was not properly affixed, or needs to be reissued through no fault of the applicant.
Where payable, the MRV fee, or machine-readable visa fee, is valid for one visa application within 12 months of the date of payment. If you are unable to attend the visa interview you may reschedule an appointment for any time within that 12-month period. The fee is paid at the time you schedule the interview, where payment is by debit card only.
Nationals of certain countries are also required to pay an issuance fee in order for an approved visa to be issued. Fees are based on reciprocity, reflecting the charges levied by the applicant’s government to a US citizen for a similar service.
By way of example, issuance fees are charged to British Citizen passport holders, but only for the L-2 and E-2 visas. The L-2 visa is for the spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 of an L-1 visa holder.
Those applying for a visa in person through a pre-arranged appointment will be advised whether or not an issuance fee is required. Issuance fees are paid to the Embassy cashier. Fees may be paid in cash, either dollars or sterling equivalent, or by credit card or visa.
Petition costs of US working visas
Before you can apply for a nonimmigrant petition-based work visa at a US Embassy or Consulate, a Form I-129 petition must be filed on your behalf by a prospective employer and be approved by USCIS.
The cost for your employer of filing a petition is $460.
For some US work visa categories, as with L-1 visas, rather than filing an individual petition for each overseas worker, your employer may be eligible to file what’s known as a blanket petition using Form I-129S.
Where a blanket petition has already been filed, this will eliminate the need to file an individual petition on your behalf. Instead, so long as you have proof of the blanket approval by way of Forms I-129S and I-797, you can apply directly for a visa through consular processing.
However, for certain H-1B and L-1 petitioners, a sizeable Border Security Act fee may fall due. These petitioners must submit a fee of $4,000 for H-1B petitions, and $4,500 for L-1A and L-1B petitions. These fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States, with more than 50% of those employees in H-1B or L-1A and L-1B nonimmigrant status.
The Border Security Act fee is in addition to the base-processing fee, a Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee ($500), an American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 fee ($1500/$750) where required, as well as a premium processing fee, if applicable.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.