Applying for a visa to enter the United States typically costs money. How much is an American visa? The answer depends on the type of visa you’re getting. Some visas – like visas for victims of human trafficking – come with no fee whatsoever. Other visas – like a visa to enter the United States for business or pleasure – are priced at around $160.
In addition to the application fee, some visas come with additional reciprocity fees. Certain countries pay reciprocity fees depending on their relationship with the United States. The principle of reciprocity fees is simple: because the U.S. charges, say, $160 to citizens of Nigeria wishing to visit the United States, Nigeria will charge U.S. citizens $160 to visit Nigeria. That’s how a reciprocity agreement works.
Both non-immigrant and immigrant visas come with application fees. Below, we’ll highlight fees for some of the most common and popular U.S. visas.
Fees for Non-Immigrant U.S. Visa Applications
There are dozens of types of non-immigrant U.S. visa applications. Different visas come with different fees. Generally, non-immigrant visas are priced at $160 for non-petition-based visas and $190 for petition-based visas. A petition-based visa is a visa where someone – like an American resident, citizen, or employer – is sponsoring your trip.
Non-Petition-Based Visas: $160
Petition-Based Visas: $190
E Visas: $205
K Visas: $265
Most visas fall under the “non-petition-based” category and are priced at $160. These visas include all of the following:
- S. visitor visas, including B-1 (business) and B-2 (general travel) visa
- C-1 visa for transit through the United States
- D visa for crewmembers of airlines and ships
- F visa for students, professors, and other academics
- I visa for media, press, and journalists
- J visa for visitors on a cultural exchange
- M visa for students undergoing vocational training or other schooling in the U.S.
- TN/TD visa for NAFTA professionals
- T visa for victims of human trafficking
- U visa for victims of criminal activity with unique knowledge that can bring those responsible to justice
A petition-based visa, meanwhile, may require information from an employer or someone in the United States. These visas typically come with more fees because the petitioner has to pay a fee as well. With a petition-based visa, your employer must submit a petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Department of State, or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security prior to submitting your Form DS-160. The petitioner pays a fee to submit this petition. Fees vary according to your visa.
Generally, petition-based visas come with a fee of $190. This fee includes all of the following visas:
- H visas for temporary workers, including the H-1B visa, H-1B1 visa, H-2A visa, H-2B visa, H-3 visa, and H-4 visa
- L visas for intracompany transfers, including the L-1 visa and the L-2 visa
- visas for persons with exceptional abilities, including the O-1 visa, O-2 visa, and the O-3 visa
- P visas for athletes, entertainers, and artists seeking to perform in the U.S.
- Q visas for international cultural exchanges
- R visas for religious workers
In addition to petition-based visas and non-petition-based visas, other visas have unique fees. Other visa fees you need to know about include:
E-1, E-2, and E-3 Visa: $205 application fee
Border Crossing Card for Citizens of Mexico: $160 (for applicants 15 years of age and older) or $16 (for applicants under age 15)
L Visas and H-1B Visas: L visas and H-1B visas come with certain extra fees for certain companies. A company that has 50 or more employees, for example, with more than half of them being foreign workers may have to pay a $4,000 or $4,500 fee to file an L visa or H-1B visa.
Which Visas Are Free?
Certain U.S. visas come with no application fees. Generally, these visas are not for the ordinary public: these visas are for government workers, diplomats, and those on government-sponsored initiatives. U.S. entry visas that come with no fees include:
- A, G, C-2, C-3, diplomatic, and NATO visas
- J visas applicants who are sponsored by the U.S. government
- Applicants traveling for charity purposes
- Applicants traveling as part of international organizations, including the staff and family members of individuals working at the United Nations headquarters
- Foreign citizens employed by the U.S. government traveling for official business
- The family (parents, siblings, spouse, and children) of a U.S. government employee killed in the line of duty when the family is traveling to the U.S. to attend the funeral or burial
- Afghan or Iraqi special immigration applications (including for translators and other Iraqi or Afghan employees of the U.S. government)
You will also not pay a visa fee if you need to replace a machine-readable visa if the original visa was not sufficiently stamped and it was not the applicant’s fault. If the staff at the embassy mess up the stamping process, for example, then you might have your visa fee waived when replacing the visa.
U.S. Immigrant Visa Fees
Generally, immigrant visas are significantly more expensive than non-immigrant visas. More paperwork is required for an immigrant visa, and that means more costs along the way.
Part of the reason immigrant visas are more expensive is because both the petitioner (the U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsoring your application) and the applicant need to pay visa fees.
Petition fees include the following:
Form I-130 – Immigrant Petition for Relative: $530 USD
Form I-600 or Form I-800 – Petitions for Adoption: $775
Affidavit of Support: $120
Processing fees, meanwhile, will be paid by the applicant in his or her home country. Here are some sample processing fees for typical immigrant visas (not including the petition costs):
Immediate Relative or Family Preference Immigration Application: $325
Employment Based Immigration Application: $345
Self-Petitioning Immigration Applications and Other Immigration Applications: $205
K Visa for a Fiancé or Spouse of a U.S. Citizen: $265
U.S. Diversity Visa Fees
The U.S. Diversity Visa system is a lottery-based system for those who want to immigrate to the United States. Applicants sign up for the U.S. Diversity Visa program every year. Then, the U.S. government decides how many winners will be selected. Applications are reviewed throughout the year, with a certain number of applicants being selected annually.
The U.S. Diversity Visa comes with a fee of $330. This fee must be paid before you submit your application online.
Why Are U.S. Visas So Expensive? Why Do U.S. Visas Cost Money?
You might be wondering – why do I have to pay these fees? Why do U.S. visas cost money to begin with?
The answer is simple. It costs money for the United States to process visas. The United States recaptures those costs with visa fees.
The process of obtaining a visa requires you to interact with a website, an embassy, a consular officer, security personnel, background check systems, and other elements of the U.S. government. All of these elements cost money, and these costs are passed onto the visa applicant. Background checks, phone interviews, and personal appearances may also be required, increasing the costs at every step of the way.
One of the most frustrating parts about U.S. visa application fees is that they’re non-refundable. Even if your application is denied and you never visit the United States, you will not get a refund of your visa application. Consider it a donation to the U.S. government.
Unfortunately, there is no real way to avoid U.S. visa fees. Unless you’re from a Visa Waiver Program country or you meet one of the no-fee qualifications above, you’ll need to pay U.S. visa fees to gain entrance to the United States.