NIGERIANS STILL PAY MORE FOR U.S. VISA

NIGERIANS STILL PAY MORE FOR U.S. VISA

With effect from August 29, Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service Muhammad Babandede ought to have decreased Nigeria’s visa charges to United States citizens so that Nigerians will not have to pay more for American visa, but as The Nation found out yesterday, visa applicants in U.S. visa centres in Lagos and Abuja still acceptance fees, writes VINCENT IKUOMOLA

What Nigeria charges other nationals

United States $270
Bangladesh $253
Belize $200
Chile $200
India $253
Indonesia $245
Ireland $170
Israel $169
UAE $150
South Africa $58
United Kingdom $144
China $64
Malaysia $6

•Source: Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS)

IT looked like a proactive action. A day after the American government announced that Nigerians applying for tourism, student, media and business visas to the United States will have to pay issuance fees, Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola ordered Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service Muhammad Babandede ought to have decreased Nigeria’s visa charges to United States to move against it. But about two months later, Nigerians are yet to benefit from the minister’s action.

Aregbesola, in a statement by the ministry’ spokesman, Mohammed Manga, said a committee set up to conduct due diligence in line with the ministry’s extant policy on reciprocity of visa fees had earlier engaged with the US embassy on the issue, adding that the implementation of its recommendations was delayed due to “transition processes in the ministry at the policy level.”

It said: “The committee had concluded its assignment and submitted a report, but the issuance of authorisation for its recommendations was delayed due to transition processes in the ministry at the policy level.

“The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has approved the decrease of visa charges payable by US citizens in line with reciprocity policy as recommended by the committee.

“Accordingly, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, has been directed to implement the decrease in Nigeria’s visa charges to US Citizens with effect from August 29, 2019.”

The American government’s reaction to the ministry’s statement was that it would study the situation and would only stop the acceptance fess after seeing assurance that Americans seeking to come to Nigeria were not paying more.

The new fees introduced by the U.S. are aside from the $160 or N59, 200 processing cash for all visa categories.

The embassy adopts the rate of N370 per $1 for Nigerians. The official rate is about N360 to a dollar.

Now, for a tourist visa, an extra $110 or N40, 700 is paid after the visa has been issued to the applicant. Applicants, whose applications are denied, will not need to pay the extra $110.

Applicants seeking the work permit otherwise known as L1 Visa now pay an extra N112, 100 if given visas while those applying for dependency/spousal visa (H4 visa) pay an extra N66, 600.

The embassy’s statement added that the increment was done based on reciprocity, which means when a foreign government imposes additional visa fees on U.S. citizens, the United States imposes reciprocal fees on citizens of that country for similar types of visas.

The embassy blamed the Federal Government for the reciprocity fees for refusing to remove the additional cost imposed on Americans.

Its statement reads: “Effective worldwide on 29 August, Nigerian citizens will be required to pay a visa issuance fee, or reciprocity fee, for all approved applications for nonimmigrant visas in B, F, H1B, I, L, and R visa classifications. The reciprocity fee will be charged in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee, also known as the MRV fee, which all applicants pay at the time of application. Nigerian citizens whose applications for a nonimmigrant 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.

“U.S. law requires U.S. visa fees and validity periods to be based on the treatment afforded to U.S. citizens by foreign governments, insofar as possible. Visa issuance fees are implemented under the principle of reciprocity: when a foreign government imposes additional visa fees on U.S. citizens, the United States will impose reciprocal fees on citizens of that country for similar types of visas. Nationals of a number of countries worldwide are currently required to pay this type of fee after their nonimmigrant visa application is approved.

“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.

“Since early 2018, the U.S. government has engaged the Nigerian government to request that the Nigerian government change the fees charged to U.S. citizens for certain visa categories. After eighteen months of review and consultations, the government of Nigeria has not changed its fee structure for U.S. citizen visa applicants, requiring the U.S. Department of State to enact new reciprocity fees in accordance with our visa laws.

“The reciprocity fee will be required for all Nigerian citizens worldwide, regardless of where they are applying for a nonimmigrant visa to the United States. The reciprocity fee is required for each visa that is issued, which means both adults and minors whose visa applications are approved will be charged the reciprocity fee. The fee can only be paid at the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General. The reciprocity fee cannot be paid at banks or any other location.”

President Donald Trump, in a 2017 executive order, pushed for stricter visa reciprocity terms. In the executive order, he urged the secretary of State to “review all non-immigrant visa reciprocity agreements” in respect of validity periods and application fees.

“If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable,” the executive order read.

Dropbox suspension

The embassy had in May suspended its dropbox visa renewal programme for Nigerians with travel history to the United States.

The statement suspending the programme reads: “Effective at the close of business today, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, the US Mission to Nigeria is indefinitely suspending interview waivers for renewals, otherwise known as the ‘Dropbox’ process.

“Visa applications will no longer be accepted by DHL in Nigeria. Those who have already submitted their passports via Dropbox to DHL for processing either at the US Embassy in Abuja or the Consulate General in Lagos, will not be impacted by this change.

“All applicants in Nigeria seeking a non-immigrant visa to the United States must apply online and will be required to appear in person at the US Embassy in Abuja or US Consulate General in Lagos to submit their application for review. Applicants must appear at the location they specified when applying for the visa renewal.

“Processing of diplomatic and official (A, G, and NATO class) visa applications will continue unchanged.”

It added its processing procedures are regularly reviewed to “assess our ability to quickly, efficiently, and securely process visa applications”.

Nigerians are certainly looking forward to the two governments sorting out their differences for a quick return to the old fees regime.

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