Menkiti Onyebuchi Bernie, Editor
The US Mission to Nigeria, through its consular offices in Abuja and Lagos, concertedly made a press release imposing new visa issuance fees on Nigeria applicants on new grounds of visa reciprocity. The press release which was dated 27th August, 2019 was as elaborate in explaining why, when and how the new fiscal visa rules shall apply.
The press release read in part: ‘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.’
However, from the press release made available to diplomaticwatch.com the new visa fee was imposed on Nigerian applicants based on the reciprocity rules as contained in US laws. The press release stated thus: ‘… 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.’
It read further, ‘..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.’
Beyond domestic laws, the rule of reciprocity is well known in the diplomatic circle and serves as a written and sometimes non-written cordial immigration relationship among countries. Foregoing, the press release exposed Nigeria’s unconcerned diplomatic approach, and pronounced her as having blurred the lines of a healthy reciprocity relationship by charging even twice or more what the US charges its citizens for nonimmigrant visas in B, F, H1B, I, L, and R visa classifications.
It said, ‘..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.’
On record, it is estimated that more than 220,000 applications are submitted annually by Nigerians for non-immigrant visas to the United States. Infact, as recent as 2014, the US mission to Nigeria through its Chief Consular Officer Miss Stacie Hankins while speaking to media reporters in Abuja in 2014 agreed to the figure.
Furthermore, Hankins said, ‘…US Consular Office processes about 400 visa applications everyday, that is from Monday to Friday, while the Lagos Consulate office processes about 900 applications daily.’
According to the press release, ‘..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.’
It could be recalled, that the US mission to Nigeria had few months ago through its consulate announced the eradication of the dropbox procedural system as part of its visa application system.
It remains unclear how the Nigerian government would respond to the press release. At the time of filing this report, the presidency nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were yet to issue a statement.
The reciprocity fee schedule is based on visa classification, and is a s follows: B1-$110, B2-$110, B1/B2-$110, F1/F2-$110, H1B/H4-$180, L1/L2-$303, R1/R2-$80.