Payback time for Nigeria as U.S. raises visa fee
After more than 18 months of unfruitful negotiations with the Nigerian government to reduce its high visa fee, the United States Embassy yesterday invoked its reciprocity rule.
“The total cost for a U.S. citizen to obtain a visa to Nigeria is currently higher than the total cost for a Nigerian to obtain a comparable visa to the United States. The new reciprocity fee for Nigerian citizens is meant to eliminate that cost difference,” says a statement by the Public Affairs Section (PAS) U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.
The new fee for all approved applications for non-immigrant visas in categories: B, F, H1B, I, L, and R will begin tomorrow.
The statement adds: “The reciprocity fee will be charged in addition to the non-immigrant visa application fee, also known as the MRV fee, which all applicants pay at the time of application. Nigerian citizens whose applications for a non-immigrant visa are denied will not be charged the new reciprocity fee. Both reciprocity and MRV fees are non-refundable, and their amounts vary based on visa classification.”
Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom have some of the most expensive visa regime, with applicants being subjected to multiple scrutiny and bureaucratic tapes by consular and security agencies.
United States citizens pay as much as $270 for a single-entry visa. They are also charged $160 for consular services, another $100 for ‘administration’ and $10 for ‘processing.’
As at May 2018, Mr. Sunday James, the deputy comptroller in charge of information management at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), was quoted by local media as saying he was “not aware that Nigeria’s visa was among the most expensive.”
The House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora had, in December 2017, queried the NIS for demanding exorbitant amounts for visas.
The reciprocity rule entails that Nigerian applicants will now pay an application fee of $160 and another $110 for visa issuance if successful. They also have a grace period of five days to pay the additional issuance fee.
Further inquiry by The Guardian revealed that Nigerian citizens are not the only ones required to pay a reciprocity fee. The Department of State reviews the amounts foreign governments charge U.S. citizens on a regular basis and adjusts its fee schedules accordingly. It also requires citizens of countries that charge higher to pay a non-immigrant visa issuance fee or reciprocity fee after their application is approved.
Following the almost two years of failed negotiations with the Federal Government, through the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries, the U.S. Department of State took the decision in accordance with Section 281 of its Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The section provides that the “Department of State establish visa fee corresponding to the total of all visa, entry, residence, or other similar fee, taxes, or charges assessed or levied against nationals of the United States.”
The new fee regime “applies to all Nigerian citizens, regardless of where in the world they are applying for a non-immigrant visa to the United States.”
Cautious in their response to questions by The Guardian, spokespersons in the Foreign and Internal Affairs ministries neither validated nor denied the matter.
The Director of Press at the Ministry of interior Mohammed Manga would not confirm if he was aware of the months of negotiation by the U.S. but directed inquiries to Mr. Sunday James.
The deputy comptroller initially answered the telephone call with interest but deflected when The Guardian sought to make an inquiry.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, efforts to get Mr. Kimiebi Ebienfa of the NIS media department were unsuccessful as his phone rang out. But later in the night he said through a text message that there was no statement from the ministry for now.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians have expressed mixed feelings following President Donald Trump’s announcement of “seriously” considering ending birthright citizenship for children born in America.
Birthright citizenship in the U.S. is acquired by virtue of the circumstances of birth, contrasting with citizenship acquired in other ways, for example by naturalisation.
Mrs. Oyin John, a fashion designer, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Abuja, said though she does not like the announcement, Trump has the right to take whatever decision he “feels is best for his country.”
John, who had her first baby in the U.S. said the “top notch” health services of hospitals in the U.S. informed her preference to be delivered of her children there.
She said if Trump eventually succeeds, it could be a good omen for the Nigerian government to sit up and improve its healthcare system.
But Mrs. Biola Odebode, an Abuja-based businesswoman said it might not be easy for Trump to end birthright citizenship because the U.S. has been able to take advantage of birth tourism to generate huge revenue.
She also blamed Nigerians for misusing the opportunities offered by medical tourism.
Mr. Chimeruo Obioha, a mariner, said Trump’s announcement did not come to him as a surprise because the U.S. president needs to protect his country.
“Regardless of the general poor health services across the country, I still believe that there are top-notch hospitals within Nigeria that can provide services rendered in hospitals abroad. Anyone who can spend as much as $8,000 to $,12,000 to go abroad to be delivered of a child can afford such hospitals in Nigeria,” Obioha added.