The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a significant change to the immigration process for foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP enables nationals of 36 participating countries to travel to the U.S. as tourists or business visitors for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Visa waiver travelers will continue to be required to apply for an ESTA through DHS' online system before boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea. VWP travelers can register online using the ESTA website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Under the ESTA system, travelers enter basic biographical, travel, and eligibility information and typically receive a decision on their travel authorization within seconds. Once approved, a foreign national is authorized to use the VWP for up to two years or until his or her passport expires, whichever comes first. Visa waiver travelers are not required to present a copy of the travel authorization in order to travel, though we strongly advise all applicants to carry a copy of the printed authorization screen when traveling. By the end of summer 2010, DHS expects that all visa waiver travelers will no longer have to complete a paper I-94W Arrival/Departure Form upon arrival to the U.S. so long as they have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Since January 2009, visa waiver travelers have had to receive preclearance from ESTA and fill out a paper Form I-94W. 

Foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. pursuant to a valid U.S. visa should note that the ESTA requirement does not apply to them, and they will still be required to complete a paper Form I-94 upon arrival. We will continue to monitor the status of this DHS initiative and keep you updated as new information becomes available. In the meantime, we strongly advise foreign nationals eligible for the VWP to register with the ESTA service as soon as they are aware of their travel plans to avoid any delays and resolve any issues that may arise. 

Nonimmigrant Visa Fees Set to Increase on June 4


The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has published an interim final rule that raises the fees that U.S. consular posts charge for processing nonimmigrant visas. Currently, the fee is $131 for all nonimmigrant visa categories. Under its new fee schedule, the DOS will now charge varying fee amounts depending on the particular visa being applied for.  

Effective June 4, 2010, the fee for business (B-1), tourist (B-2), student (F), and exchange visitor (J) visas will increase to $140. The visa application fee for temporary workers (H), intra-company transferees (L), extraordinary ability applicants (O), performers (P), cultural exchange participants (Q), and religious workers (R) will increase to $150. The visa application fee for treaty traders and treaty investors will increase to $390. The visa application fee for fiancés of American citizens (K) will be $350. All other visa categories will have an application fee of $140. 

The new visa fees are applicable to everyone applying for a visa on or after June 4, 2010. Applicants who have already paid the current visa application fee of $131 for appointments on or after June 4, 2010, will have to pay the difference to match the new visa application fees. Each consular post has its own processes and procedures for paying the visa application fee, so please contact any of our immigration attorneys should you have questions about the new visa fees or on how to pay a supplemental fee to a specific consulate.