The U.S. Department of State (DOS) provided quite a shocking gift for Australians applying for certain work type visas over the holidays. On December 23, 2019 without previous notice or warning, DOS adjusted the reciprocity schedule and fees for Australian citizens. This most important included in many cases significant increase in issuance fees, as known as reciprocity fees, for certain E, F, H, L, and R visa categories.
The most important changes related to employment visa in the reciprocity fees (in USD) were:
H-1B and H-4 From $105 to $1,295
L-1 and L-2 From $105 to $1,790
E-1 and E-2 (Including Dependents) From $105 to $3,574
Importantly, E-3 visas for Australians working in specialty occupations were not affected by the change to the reciprocity schedule. E-3 visas still do not have a reciprocity fee.
Also, 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.
The impetus for such change by the U.S. government was to supposedly make U.S. visa fees and visa issuance more in line with Australian fees and visa lengths in the interest of reciprocity. This is a review that is being undertake worldwide. As indicated by the Department of State:
Executive Order 13780, which was signed by the President in March 2017, required the Department of State to undertake a worldwide review of non-immigrant 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.
Australia is one more 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.