Buhari caves to Trump, as FG reduces visa fee for Americans 

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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, hiking visa fees for Nigerians; and forcing the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to back down without a whimper. The 

Nigerian government announced Wednesday it has reduced the cost of visa application for US citizens. 

 

Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola directed that the fee be decreased to $150 with effect from Thursday, August 29, 2019. “The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, has been directed to implement the decrease in Nigeria’s Visa charges to US Citizens to USD 150 with effect from Thursday, 29th August, 2019,” Aregbesola’s spokesman Mohammed Manga said in a statement.

 

This is coming hours after the United States ordered an increase in the cost of visa application for Nigerians blaming the Nigerian government. It explained that it was “reciprocating” the extra visa fee the Nigerian government charges American citizens. “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,” the US Embassy said on Tuesday.

 

“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,” it added. The US took the decision in accordance with Section 281 of its Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and following almost two years of failed negotiations with Nigerian authorities, through the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries.

 

However, Manga noted that there were “engagements with the United States Embassy on the issue and in the aftermath, a Committee was set up to conduct due diligence in line with the Ministry’s extant policy on reciprocity of Visa fees.” He said the committee had concluded submitted its report but “issuance of authorization for its recommendations” was delayed due to transition processes in the ministry. It remains unclear whether the US will now rescind its new visa fees for Nigerians, and when such an action will go into effect.

 

Until that happens, a statement by the Public Affairs Section (PAS) US Consulate General in Lagos noted that: “The total cost for a US 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.” The new fee for all approved applications for non-immigrant visas in categories: B, F, H1B, I, L, and R were scheduled to go into effect tomorrow.

 

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. US citizens pay as much as $270 for a single-entry visa to Nigeria. They are charged $160 for consular services, another $100 for “administration” and $10 for “processing.” The reciprocity rule entails that; Nigerian US visa 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.

 

The House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora had, in December 2017, queried the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) for demanding exorbitant amounts for visas. However, Sunday James, NIS deputy comptroller in charge of information management, was quoted by local media as saying he was “not aware that Nigeria’s visa was among the most expensive.”

 

Huhuonline.com understands that Nigerians are not the only ones required to pay a reciprocity fee. The Department of State reviews the amounts foreign governments charge US 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 almost two years of failed negotiations with the Federal Government, through the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries, the US State Department 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 reporters, 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 US but directed inquiries to Sunday James.  But the NIS deputy comptroller initially answered the telephone call with interest but deflected and all efforts to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were unsuccessful.