The United States Department of State (DOS) recently made a number of significant changes to visa “reciprocity” tables.  Reciprocity involves either additional fees, or shorter validity periods (or both) for visa applicants from certain countries and for certain visa classifications.

Background

The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is responsible for the administration of visa applications to the US.  As part of this process, DOS defines “reciprocity” requirements for certain visa classifications.  In some instances, based on the applicant’s nationality and the type of visa requested, an individual may be required to pay an additional reciprocity fee, or may be issued a visa with a shorter validity period than what is normally allowable.

DOS defines Reciprocity as follows:

“[W]hen a foreign government imposes fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose a reciprocal fee on citizens of that country*/area of authority for similar types of visas.”

Notable Recent Changes to Reciprocity Tables

Just before the new year, DOS updated their Visa Reciprocity Schedule to reflect new visa fees and new visa validity periods for citizens of Australia. The affected nonimmigrant visa types include: B-1/B-2 Visitors, E-1 and E-2 Treaty Traders/Investors, F-1 Students, H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers, L Intracompany Transferees, and R Religious Workers, along with their corresponding dependents.  

Most surprisingly, the E-1 and the E-2 reciprocity fee for Australian nationals was increased from $105.00 to $3,574.00. Additionally, the H-1B/H-4 reciprocity fee increased from $105.00 to $1,295.00 and the L-1/L-2 reciprocity fee increased from $105.00 to $1,790.00 while the maximum validity period for the L-1/L-2 visa was shortened from 60 months to 48 months.

Other notable reciprocity updates recently implemented include shortening the validity periods for the L-1/L-2, E-1 and E-2 visas for citizens of France. For French citizens, the maximum validity period of an L-1/L-2 visa is 17 months, and the maximum validity period of an E-1 and E-2 visa is 25 months. Also, the H-1B/H-4 visa fee for French Citizens recently increased to $480.00.

Other countries that have recently undergone reciprocity fee and/or visa validity periods updates include: Andorra, Spain, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Argentina, Belgium, Norway, Chile, Malta, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Austria. 

The changes in the Reciprocity Tables were likely a result of Executive Order 13780 issued by President Trump in 2017, which required that DOS undertake a worldwide review of reciprocity arrangements and update any discrepancies. DOS visa reciprocity tables are available here.

As DOS is continuously updating the Visa Reciprocity Schedule, we encourage all visa applicants to contact their Mintz Immigration attorney to learn of any reciprocity requirements when applying for a visa.