U.S. firefighters coming to help extinguish the devastating forest fires were cheered when they arrived at the airport in Sydney, Australia. In the past, in what became a reciprocal arrangement, Australian firefighters have assisted U.S. firefighters.
A different sort of reciprocity has led to the sudden increase in visa fees for Australians coming to the United States. This increase was announced in response to President Donald Trump’s 2017 “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” Executive Order, which, in part, directed the Department of State to review reciprocity arrangements for accuracy. Apparently, DOS found a mismatch between Australian and U.S. visa fees — likely a reflection of the work permit fees charged by the Australian government. Here are the changes that went into effect, without notice, on December 23, 2019:
H-1B: From $105 to $1,295
H-4: From $105 to $1,295
L-1: From $105 to $1,790
L-2: From $105 to $1,790
E-1: From $105 to $3,574
E-2: From $105 to $3,574
The visa reciprocity fee is paid to the U.S. Consulate after a visa is granted to an Australian national. The fee is separate and in addition to the usual DS-160 Online Visa Processing/Application Fee of $160. The reciprocity fee must be paid by each individual applicant. For a family of four applying for a U.S. H-1B work visa and three H-4 dependent visas, that means $5,180 in reciprocity fees at the Consulate plus $640 in application fees. Australians applying for U.S. E-3 “Specialty Occupation” visas will see no change — this category will continue to be exempt from the reciprocity fee. Those applying for U.S. B-1/B-2 visas will see the small reciprocity fee has been eliminated and the visa may be granted for up to five years, instead of the previous practice of only 12 months. The validity period for U.S. L-1/L-2 visas has however been lowered to 48 months.
Some employers pay the visa application fees for their foreign national employees, and even for family members, but many do not. This steep increase for Australian nationals is something that employers will need to keep in mind as part of the cost of on-boarding when bringing hiring foreign talent.
You can follow changes in the Visa Reciprocity Table at this link.