The United States wants to increase the cost of non-immigrant visas

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President Joe Biden’s administration has proposed raising the cost of nearly all nonimmigrant visas.

US officials say the price increase is necessary to balance the cost of visa services. But critics say that if wait times for documents are not shortened, rising visa costs could mean fewer travelers and students coming to the United States.

The Federal Register, the official journal of the US government, published the proposal in late December. He said the State Department expects the new prices to go into effect by September. The State Department is accepting comments on the proposed increases through Feb. 28.

David Bier is an immigration policy expert at the Cato Institute, a research group in Washington, D.C. Bier told VOA: “All costs increases occur at a time when tourism and travel to the United States is already at an all-time low, and the State Department is imposing waits of six months to a year in many places for a tourist or business travel visa.

State Department information shows that the most popular visas are for tourism, business, and study.

A nonimmigrant visa allows its holder to travel as a tourist or to temporarily live, work, or study in the United States under defined conditions. B1 and B2 visas are for business and tourism. F, M and J visas are student visas. Their price increases from $160 to $245, an increase of 54%. H, L, O, P, Q and R visas are for employment. Their price increases from $190 to $310, an increase of 63%.

Bier said the most important thing is for visas to be issued quickly. He said if the State Department increased costs but did not improve service, it would result in fewer travelers to the United States.

Longer waits

On his first day in office, Biden introduced the US Citizenship Act of 2021. The bill would have called for big changes in immigration policy. But, Congress did not act on the legislation.

Some immigration experts say Biden reversed many of former President Trump’s immigration policies. These experts say an executive order from Trump is responsible for creating longer wait times.

In addition, the Department of State has suspended regular visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates in 2020 due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Novel coronavirus restrictions have added to longer wait times. The Cato Institute said the State Department will slowly restore visa service, but about a quarter of offices are partially or fully closed.

Bier said that in January, most consulates reported waits of 202 days for a visa appointment for business travelers or tourists. In April 2021, the usual wait was 95 days. For students and exchange visitors, the wait was around 38 days. That’s up from 25 days a year ago. The wait for appointments for most other visas, including skilled and temporary workers, is 62 days. This represents an increase from 40 days in April 2020.

Effect on students, workers

A State Department spokesperson explained that consular operations are funded by visa fees. The proposed fee increase is intended to ensure that the agency recovers the costs of providing its services.

Jill Welch is Policy Advisor to the Presidents Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Welch said rising costs must translate into better service, especially shorter wait times. This is important for students who need to enter the United States in time for school. The group is still considering how the new policy will affect international students.

I am Gregory Stachel.

Aline Barros reported this story for Voice of America. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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words in this story

costs – nm a sum of money that must be paid for a good or service often in addition to the price

tourism – nm the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

impose – v. to cause (something, such as a tax, fine, rule, or punishment) to affect someone or something by using your authority

Consulate – nm the building where a consul lives and works

unfortunate – adj. not appropriate or desirable

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