According to a report by SaharaReporters, an American woman has narrated how she got the visa to travel to Nigeria only after a week of application – a process which took her friends close to a month due to the inefficiency of Nigerian officials.
Olivia (not real name), a missionary travelling to Nigeria, told SaharaReporters how her visa processing cost a total $850 (about N350,000), adding that it was a “miracle” the visa got through in one week.
Processing the visa from United States Capital, Washington DC, the woman narrated that she did not have to pay kickbacks only because the Nigerian Mission had “a good relationship with the travel agency.”
“It took my friends three and a half weeks to get their Nigerian visas. It can take a while to get. I don’t believe it’s that hard though; this is my second time using this office. They are more pricey, but it’s not that difficult. It’s a simple process,” she stated.
“The first time it was hectic; if you are not providing right documentations, that puts longer delay. God’s done it. The officials didn't demand money as kickbacks. They have a good relationship with a travel agency.”
Olivia added that the visa showed up at her door in less than one week, surprisingly as against the kickbacks regime at the Nigerian Mission.
“My Nigerian visa story this time is; someone went to Washington. The agencies closed. She paid close to $350 but by the time she added travel and computer costs, it was close to $550. My visa came out to $850. That was the total amount spent. The travel agency has a good relationship with Nigeria. I got this Nigerian visa in less than a week. It is a miracle. It showed up at my door. Glory to God,” she narrated.
There have been widespread complaints about how Nigerian Mission officials in the US unnecessarily delay applications for visas in order to obtain kickbacks and other gratifications from the travellers.
This was coupled with the exorbitant fees Nigeria demanded from other nationals applying for its visa, whether from the US or elsewhere.
According to the Guardian in September 2019, the US had for almost two years complained officially to the Nigerian government about the exorbitant charges that its citizens had been compelled to pay for a Nigerian entry visa.
“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.”
More than 18 months after, however, the Nigerian government did not respond to the US complaint,” a Guardian report said.
According to another report, “the committee set up to look into the US complaints concluded its assignment in 2019 but powerful individuals with vested interests constrained officials from implementing the recommendations until the US government same year embarrassed the federal government with the reciprocity visa charges.”
Hence in August 2019, the then Donald Trump administration imposed a “reciprocity” fee for all approved non-immigrant visa applications by Nigerians. The fee will be charged in addition to visa application fees (usually paid at the start of the application process) for only applicants who are issued visas. The additional reciprocity fees range from $80 to $303 depending on the class of visa.
The US Embassy in Nigeria says the reciprocity fees are in response to unsuccessful talks with Nigeria’s government to adjust the fees it charges American applicants given “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.”
As such, the reciprocity fee “is meant to eliminate that cost difference,” as required by US laws.
The reciprocity visa charges mean that, in addition to the standard non-refundable visa application fees, Nigerians seeking entry into the United States would have to pay an extra minimum of $80 upon approval of their visas (extra payment amount depending on visa type, and may rise to as high as $303).
This policy forced the Nigerian government to then announce the approval of a reduction in the visa fees payable by US citizens.
But, owing perhaps to the now well-known policy implementation gaps that lead to sustenance of so many hidden charges within many Nigerian service systems, the American government has maintained that until its embassy receives, “official diplomatic communication regarding a new fee schedule for Americans seeking Nigerian visas and confirmation of implementation, the reciprocity fees for approved visas would remain in place.
SaharaReporters had in February 2020 reported that in response to the US government’s demand, the Nigerian Government slashed its visa application charges for citizens of the United States from $180 to $160.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the old amount comprised $160 as visa fee and $20 as “processing and expedient fees”.
According to the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, the reduction followed a review of the US’ visa reciprocity policy for Nigeria.
Babandede stated this in a February 5 memo marked NIS/HQ/CGI/806/7 and addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In August 2019, the US Government imposed additional visa fees on Nigerians in retaliation for the “treatment afforded to US citizens” by the Nigerian Government.
In his letter, the NIS urged all Nigerian missions in the US to immediately implement the new visa charges payable by US citizens, and “discontinue charging processing or expedient fees”.
“Our Missions are to issue up to two years multiple entry visa to frequent short visit travellers on request in line with reciprocity,” he said.
A senior official of the Nigerian Consulate in New York, had told NAN that the “processing and expedient fees” of $20 was for online application and payment services rendered by a private firm.
Babandede’s letter came a day after the President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Nigeria Visa Policy 2020 which, among others, increased the country’s visa classes from six to 79.
Having got Nigeria to do the needful, the US on December 5, 2020, also removed the reciprocity fee imposed on visa applications for Nigerians.
The Nigeria’s then Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Ferdinand Nwonye in a statement later said the reciprocity fee removal took effect from December 3, 2020.
“The ministry of foreign affairs wishes to inform that the United States government has removed all visa reciprocity fees for Nigerian citizens seeking visas to the United States,” Nwonye had said.
“The positive development is in line with the removal of excess visa application, processing and biometric fees for United States citizens applying for Nigerian visas by the Nigerian government,” he added.
Despite the reduction in the visa fees by the Nigerian government, its officials still allegedly swindle foreigners travelling to the country by bringing a deliberate delay in the obtaining of visas unless kickbacks are given.