US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who disclosed this, said the issue was being looked into by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, which would then make a recommendation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, had in his presentation at a high-level meeting between Nigerian and US officials in Washington DC during the week, said Nigeria had concluded arrangements to start issuing five-year visa to American citizens, businessmen and tourists, and expressed hope that US government would reciprocate the gesture.
Responding to a question from THISDAY on whether Nigeria’s request was discussed at the closed session of the meeting and whether there were specific commitments by the US government on the issue, Carson said: “We have referred that issue to the Bureau of Consular Affairs and they will take a very close look at this issue and they will make a recommendation to the Deputy Secretary (Burns) and to the Secretary (Hillary Clinton).”
Welcoming Nigeria’s decision to unilaterally adjust its visa regime by providing five-year multiple entries visas to American citizens, the senior US diplomat said, “We value our relations with Nigeria and we believe that the only way we can strengthen that relations overall is the regular movement of citizens between our countries.”
THISDAY had exclusively reported that Nigeria was proposing to US government to increase the validity period of NIVs issued to Nigerians from the current two years to five years, and that the issue would be raised at the just concluded high-level BNC meeting in Washington DC.
Nigeria’s request may however be a reality since issuance of visa for single or multiple entries and the number of years, is dependent upon the category and country-specific issues of reciprocity with US.
According to US Country Reciprocity Schedule for Nigeria, the validity period for non-immigrant visas given to Nigeria ranges between six months and 24 months, apart from U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4, U-5, V-1, V-2, and V-3 visas, which have validity period ranging between 48 and 120 months.
A comparison with three key African countries shows that Nigeria has the lowest validity period of non-immigrant visas in categories like B-1, B-2, B-1/B-2 (which are for business travellers or for pleasure, tourism or medical treatment) and F-1, F-2 (for foreign students, their spouses and children).
Also the schedule on I visa (for foreign media, their spouses and children) shows that Nigeria has a lower validity period compared to South Africa and Egypt.
For instance, B-1, B2, and B-1/B-2 validity period schedule for South Africa is 120 months, while I-visa validity period for Nigerian media is 36 months.
Also, for Ghana and Egypt, the B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 validity period is 60 months, while the validity period for I Visa granted to Egyptian media is 60 months.
However, records on non-immigrant visas issued by the State Department for F visa category according to nationality in fiscal year 2011 showed that Nigeria was issued 3,588, Ghana 880, Egypt 1,246, and South Africa 764.
Also with 88 I visas, Nigeria had the highest number of foreign media visas issued in Africa in 2011 fiscal year.
Earlier in the year, Consular Chief, US Consulate General in Lagos, Mr. Carl Cockburn, had disclosed that no fewer than 100,000 Nigerians applied for US visas in Abuja and Lagos in 2011.
One of Nigeria’s arguments is that increasing the validity period of most of the categories of non-immigrant visas to five years would also help reduce the workload on the US mission in Nigeria, which is saddled with the task of huge applications, a substantial number of which may be for visa renewals.