US Mission New Zealand: Ambassador Huebner Visits Antarctica

Ambassador Huebner traveled to Antarctica to kick off U.S. Mission New Zealand’s focused on science diplomacy and deepen the longstanding U.S.-New Zealand relationship in Antarctica. Gorgeous photos but brrrrr….. all photos via US Embassy New Zealand/Flickr:

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Click here if the embedded slideshow does not work.

Read Ambassador Huebner’s blog post here.

Domani Spero

On Friday the 13th – New US Visa Processing Fees Go Boo!

The State Department recently announced that effective today, April 13, 2012, it will adjust visa processing fees for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas:

The fees for most nonimmigrant visa applications and Border Crossing Cards will increase, while all immigrant visa processing fees will decrease.

The Department is required to recover, as far as possible, the cost of processing visas through the collection of application fees. For a number of reasons, the current fees no longer cover the actual cost of processing nonimmigrant visas. The nonimmigrant visa fee increase will support the addition and expansion of overseas facilities, as well as additional staffing required to meet increased visa demand.

Although most categories of nonimmigrant visa processing fees will increase, the fee for E visas (treaty-traders and treaty-investors) and K visas (for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens) will decrease.

See the full announcement and new immigrant visa processing fees here.

We can understand bringing down the visa processing fees for fiance visas, the petitioners are all American citizens. But how is it that E visa processing fee is down from $350 to $240, we cannot quite understand. Granted that those folks are investing money in the United States and helping themselves and the US economy but it’s not like there is less work when processing those treaty investor and trader visas; I mean, have those cases become less complicated recently that the actual cost of processing those visas are calculated at $120 dollars less?

And because it is only be a matter of time before there’s a run for the money —

AllAfrica reported that the Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone in Washington D.C announced on April 2 that effective Friday, April 13th, 2012, the visa processing fee for United States of America (USA) passport holders will also be $160.

Note that based on the Visa Reciprocity Schedule neither the United States nor Sierra Leona charge a visa fee, that is a visa issuance fee. But it looks like both will now charge $160 for visa processing or a visa application fee, a fee that is normally a nonrefundable fee paid by all applicants, whether the application is approved or refused.

9 FAM 41.111 note that it is “Department practice [  ] to discount from our reciprocity fee calculations the amount of our machine-readable visa (MRV) fee from any fee charged by the host government. For example, if the host government charges American citizens (Amcits) $150 to apply for a visa, our reciprocal issuance fee for nationals of that country would appropriately be set at $19 ($150 minus the $131 MRV fee).”

The Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C. for instance also says that “Consular fees for visas to enter Belarus for US citizens are based on the principle of reciprocity.”

For visas with validity up to 1 year, and a period of stay up to 90 days, it charges U.S. citizens $ 390 for 5-day processing, and $ 780 for 48-hour expedited service.  Oh, holy guacamole!  And we charge Belarusian citizens issued US visas currently $140 visa processing fees and $100 visa issuance fees for one year multiple entry travel or business visas. The reciprocity is obviously clear to see.

So can we reasonably expect that the processing fee at other embassies will go up just as well?

Domani Spero