Ask the Consul — October 2018

Question: I applied for a tourist visa and was refused.  Since I didn’t get the visa, why can’t I get the visa fee of TT$1,096 refunded? 

Answer: Thank you for the excellent question.  This is one of our most commonly asked questions worldwide. The reason for the fee is that we are required by U.S. laws and regulations to charge to the applicant the cost of processing their visa application. Therefore, the fee you and every other visa applicant pays is based on the processing cost, which is incurred whether the visa is issued or not.

The costs involved with processing a visa include the visa officers and support staff, the computer systems, the part of the building housing the visa unit, and the associated security and administrative support.  There are many processes and checks involved in a visa application, not just at the Embassy in Port of Spain, but also remotely.  This is also why the visa application process cannot be completed in one day – the numerous processes take place before, during, and after the actual interview.

Most of these expenses are the same regardless of the outcome of your interview, so there is very little difference in the cost of processing an approved visa versus a refused visa.  The cost of the visa sticker, printing the visa, and inserting the visa in the passport is only a small part of the total.  In addition, refused visa applications have higher record-keeping requirements that offset the final production costs of an issued visa.

The basic application fee is the same no matter where you apply and is based on a detailed global analysis that is updated every year.  The visa fees you pay are deposited into a separate U.S. central fund dedicated to financing consular services.  In this way, visa services are entirely fee-funded and are not supported by other U.S. government revenue.  This principle applies to other consular services as well.  Did you know U.S. citizens applying for passports pay a non-refundable fee also based on the cost of the service?

Payment of the visa application fee is somewhat similar to someone in Trinidad and Tobago paying to take exams for a driver’s license.  If the applicant fails the exam, the fee is not refunded and must be paid again if the applicant wishes to re-sit the exam.

We hope you found the above helpful.

Official information on visa services is available on the website at tt.usembassy.gov.  Follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ttusa.