UNCLASSIFIED (U)

9 FAM 403.8

Nonimmigrant Visa Reciprocity

(CT:VISA-1242;   03-09-2021)
(Office of Origin:  CA/VO)

9 FAM 403.8-1  Statutory and REgulatory Authorities

9 FAM 403.8-1(A)  Immigration and Nationality Act

(CT:VISA-1;   11-18-2015)

INA 221(c) (8 U.S.C. 1201(c)); INA 281 (8 U.S.C. 1351).

9 FAM 403.8-1(B)  Code of Federal Regulations

(CT:VISA-1;   11-18-2015)

22 CFR 41.112.

9 FAM 403.8-2  NONIMMIGRANT VISA RECIPROCITY

(CT:VISA-1112;   07-17-2020)

INA 221(c) and INA 281 require the Department to set visa validity, number of entries, and fees for nationals of a particular country based on what that country provides to U.S. citizens for the same purpose of travel.  The goal of visa reciprocity is to obtain progressive visa regimes, consistent with U.S. national interests, laws and regulations, to encourage international travel that benefits U.S. travelers and business.  Posts are encouraged to contact CA/VO/F with questions about ensuring that U.S. visa reciprocity schedules are at parity with those of the host country.  

9 FAM 403.8-3  Role of the Consular Officer

9 FAM 403.8-3(A)  Applying Reciprocity

(CT:VISA-1242;   03-09-2021)

a. Nationality: The reciprocity schedules apply to an applicant based on the applicant’s country of nationality.  Applicants with more than one country of nationality are subject to the reciprocity schedule of the country that issued the passport the applicant submits with the visa application.

b. Permanent Residents and Refugees: Applicants who have been granted permanent resident status in another country, or who have been granted refugee status and are firmly resettled in another country, are generally subject to the reciprocity schedule of their country of nationality, and not their country of residence.

c.  Exception for Canada and The Bahamas:  Permanent residents and refugees firmly resettled in Canada and The Bahamas who apply for a nonimmigrant visa in their respective countries of residence are subject to the reciprocity schedule of that country, not their country of nationality. 

d. Stateless Persons: Stateless persons should be charged a reciprocity fee based on their country of residence.  Stateless persons do not receive the visa validity of their country of residence by default. Stateless persons should receive a single entry visa valid for 3 months, except for stateless persons resident in Canada or the Bahamas, who should receive the validity period for the respective country of residence.

e. For current country-specific validity periods and fees, refer to the Reciprocity Schedule via travel.state.gov.

9 FAM 403.8-3(B)  Providing Information to the Department

(CT:VISA-1112;   07-17-2020)

a. You should ensure that the information about visa processing and document availability is up to date on the Reciprocity Schedule, which can be found on travel.state.gov.  Send any updates of the reciprocity schedule to your NVC post liaison.

b. You have an important responsibility to help the United States maintain reciprocity with host governments.  You must keep the Department informed of any modifications to the host country visa schedule so that the Department may assess whether changes to the validity period, number of admissions, or fees for the equivalent U.S. visas are necessary to maintain reciprocity.  To remain abreast of such changes, you should maintain good contacts with the host government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with other ministries that have a stake in visa issues.  If you become aware of changes to the host country visa schedule that result in changed fees, validity, or entries, contact your VO/F post liaison to discuss next steps. 

c.  Informal discussions with U.S. travelers can shed light on how closely the host government follows its official reciprocity schedule.  Some countries fail to observe their official schedules, either over-charging for visas or issuing visas of more limited validity than specified in the official schedule.  If a pattern of non-compliance with the posted schedule is detected, you should approach appropriate representatives of the host government regarding the inconsistency and ensure that your VO/F post liaison is aware of the situation.  If the host government is unable to modify its issuance practices or official schedule to match that of the United States, you should inform your VO/F post liaison.

9 FAM 403.8-4  Achieving Reciprocity

9 FAM 403.8-4(A)  Validity and Fees

(CT:VISA-1112;   07-17-2020)

The INA has separate reciprocity provisions for visa validity and visa fees.  Based on INA 281, the Department must consider all visa, entry, residence, or other similar fees, taxes, or charges imposed on U.S. nationals to enter, exit, or reside in a foreign country.  Therefore, fees that are not for visas, entry, or residence (such as those for work permits, petitions, student registration, or expediting), other similar fees, or fees that are not charged to the U.S. national, would not factor into reciprocity calculations.  Department practice is to discount from our reciprocity fee calculations the amount of our machine-readable visa (MRV) fee from any fee charged by the host government.  For example, if the host government charges U.S. citizens $200 to apply for a tourist visa, our reciprocal issuance fee for nationals of that country would appropriately be set at $40 ($200 minus the $160 MRV fee).

9 FAM 403.8-4(B)  Changes to the Reciprocity Schedule

(CT:VISA-1242;   03-09-2021)

a. While the Department can unilaterally decrease validity, and increase or decrease fees, validity increases require consultation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Posts should clear any plans to discuss changes in visa reciprocity regimes with CA/VO/F prior to beginning discussions with the host government.  VO will not support pursuing validity increases in situations where the host government is not currently issuing visas reciprocally with the United States, the host government is uncooperative or at-risk-of-noncompliance (ARON) for alien removals, or the host country's nationals have a high visa overstay rate.  Any negotiated changes must be cleared with the Department (L/CA and CA/VO/F) before VO consults with DHS. 

b. Reciprocity Arrangements vs. Reciprocity Agreements:

(1)  It is U.S. policy not to enter into formal reciprocity agreements.  U.S. reciprocity schedules are based on what the host government imposes on U.S. travelers in practice and are therefore referred to as an "arrangement."  For guidance on the negotiation and conclusion of treaties and other international agreements see 11 FAM 720.

(2)  Occasionally, a host government may insist on an exchange of notes or letters to formalize a change to the existing reciprocity schedule.  In such cases, posts must clear the notes with CA/VO/F and L/CA and ensure that the notes or letters:

(a)  Do not create any binding legal obligations;

(b)  Specify that the United States may limit the validity of the visa to certain applicants where warranted; and

(c)  Make clear that the United States will continue to collect the application (MRV) fee, except from those individuals who are exempt from this requirement.  (See 22 CFR 41.107(c).)

9 FAM 403.8-5  Special Circumstances

(CT:VISA-1151;   09-14-2020)

a. When Diplomatic Relations Have Been Severed:  In a case where the United States does not enjoy diplomatic relations with a particular country, our visa schedules should be established on the basis of reciprocity, and should match the visa regimes that those countries apply to U.S. travelers insofar as practicable.

b. Restrictions or Conditions Imposed on U.S. Government Officials:

(1)  In accordance with INA 212(d)(8), upon the basis of reciprocity, accredited officials of foreign governments, their immediate families, attendants, servants, and personal employees may be admitted in immediate and continuous transit through the United States without regard to the provisions of INA 212(a), except paragraphs (3)(A), (B), (C), and (7)(B).

(2)  The Department assumes that the reciprocity required by INA 212(d)(8) exists with respect to A visas unless a report is received to the contrary.  Posts should submit such reports to CA/VO/F via email whenever a foreign government imposes restrictions or conditions on U.S. Government officials.  These reports are in addition to those required by 9 FAM 403.8-2 and 9 FAM 403.8-3 above).

c.  Instances Where Temporary Visa Schedule Is Used:  Use the temporary reciprocity schedule until a reciprocity schedule has been determined with respect to a particular country.

d. See 9 FAM 403.9-4(D) paragraph b(2) for situations in which double reciprocity fees are prescribed.

UNCLASSIFIED (U)