US embassy says higher fees go to visa security

by Maria Aleta Nishimori, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 24 2012 06:19 PM | Updated as of May 25 2012 07:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The US Embassy in Manila on Thursday said that the new fees for non-immigrant visa categories will go to visa security.

“All of the money goes right back to visa security. Every penny's that collected goes into securing the visa, making it even less vulnerable document because ultimately, while the visa is meant to facilitate travel, we can never compromise the security aspect of the document,” said US Consul General Michael Schimmel.

In an interview with [email protected], Schimmel explained that fees are collected by Congressional mandate to cover their costs.

“So, every year or two, they analyze how much it cost to actually process a US visa application and they calculate this by the hours devoted to it by the American officer, and by the people behind the scenes, and by all the people who manage the databases that we contrast information against to determine someone's eligibility,” he said.

The new non-immigrant visa application fees took effect last April 13, 2012.

But while some fees for the non-immigrant visa categories increased, the cost for immigrant visa application has decreased.

“Similarly, on the immigrant visa side, they lowered the cost because they realized we were charging more that it actually cost us to process immigrant visas,” he said.

Schimmel believes that the most significant change that the embassy has offered in the last 12 months is the visa reissuance program.

“If you've had a visa and you used it correctly you're invited to simply reapply or apply for its reissuance and allowing you to waive the interview altogether,” he said.

He added, “We think that has been a tremendous asset to people who don’t want to spend too much time in the embassy, and are likely to be qualified”.

He, however, emphasized that the embassy is strictly implementing a number of security measures “before somebody actually reaches the border point of the United States.”

“While we want to facilitate travel, our mandate includes security as the highest priority,” he said.

He said the security clearances are necessary before the embassy can even consider issuing a visa to somebody.

“We’re checking to see if this person represents a threat to the United States in any way, and of course, the overwhelming majority of people from the Philippines do not represent a threat. But these checks are the same for every population, every applicant worldwide,” he said.