Complete Guide to Visa Reciprocity in the U.S.

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Fee for certain non-immigrant visa applicants based on country of origin.
  • Ensures fairness through fees reciprocity between countries.
  • Checked on the U.S. Department of State website by selecting your country.
  • Separate from the non-immigrant visa application fee, charged post-approval.

When getting your visa, you may find out that you have a variety of fees to pay. One fee that always brings confusion is the visa reciprocity fee. Some have to pay for this – some don’t. But what exactly is this visa reciprocity fee? Who has to deal with it? This article should tell you the basics of the visa reciprocity fee so that you will know exactly what to expect.

What Is Visa Reciprocity?

Visa reciprocity is a fee that some non-immigrant applicants coming from certain areas of authority or countries may have to pay once their application is approved. Often referred to as visa insurance, the fees from this visa work on the reciprocity fee – meaning that what goes around comes around. If a foreign government asks for fees of a U.S. citizen for various types of visas, then the U.S. will also impose these fees on other similar visas. Its purpose is to maintain balance.

Each country will have its own list of countries from which its citizens are required to have a visa, as well as countries that are exempt from having that visa. In the spirit of fairness, the visa reciprocity mechanism was set up. If visitors from a country have to pay a visa fee to the U.S., then the U.S. will have to pay that fee too. On the other hand, if the fee is waived, then the waiver will occur on both sides. The status of the visa application will also determine when or if you have to pay the visa reciprocity.

How Do I Find Out If I Have to Pay a Reciprocity Fee?

Depending on where you may be coming from, you may or may not have to pay a visa reciprocity fee. This fee has to be checked every time you plan on traveling to and from the U.S., as the fee may occasionally change. Always check with the latest requirements to be certain that you are up to date.

To find out if you have to pay the visa reciprocity fee, you will have to go to the U.S. Department of State page, and from the menu on the left side, select the country that you are from. There, you will have a table that should tell you exactly who should pay the fee, and how much you should pay for it.

How to Read the Table

The table is there to help the immigrants hoping to obtain a visa. However, for some, it might seem very confusing to understand. Here is what that table tells you precisely.

Visa Classification

The visa classification is the type of non-immigrant visa that you are going for. It may be a B1 or B2 visa (temporary visas), an F1 visa (student visa), or any other type of visa.

Fee

This is the reciprocity fee, often referred to as the insurance fee. This is the fee that you will have to pay. Alongside this fee, you will also have to pay the non-immigrant visa application (MRV) fee.

Number of Entries

This is the number of times that you are attempting to enter the United States using this visa. If you wish to enter multiple times, then you may select “M.” However, if you already know how many times you need to enter, simply select the number that applies to your situation. If you only need to enter one time, select “One” and you will be able to opt for entry once by using that visa.

Validity Period

This tells you exactly how much you can use a visa in particular, from the day it was issued until the day that it expires. If the validity period of your visa says 60 months, then you may only use that visa for 60 months after it was issued.

Difference between the Reciprocity Fee and the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fee

Many people confuse the two: the non-immigrant visa application fee and the reciprocity fee. After all, they are two fees that you pay upfront when you plan on getting a visa. However, there are great differences between the two, one that people often seem to overlook.

The non-immigrant visa application fee, also referred to as the MRV fee, is one that everyone has to pay when opting for a U.S. visa – no matter if they are approved or not. Basically, this fee covers the cost of processing your visa application. These visa fees may be found on the web page for the Department of State, along with other relevant information.

The difference lays in the time on which the fee is being charged, as well as the status of the applicant. For example, every visa applicant will have to pay the non-immigrant visa application fee. However, the visa reciprocity fee will only be charged once the visa application has been approved and the applicant has successfully passed their interview.

In the end, while the MRV has to be paid at the beginning, no matter what, visa reciprocity is paid later once you are approved for the visa.

Immigrant Visa Interviews

Each individual will have to go through a visa interview once their visa has been processed. For this interview, the U.S. Consulate or Embassy will deliver the specific instructions for each application. You may select your designated interview application, choosing a spot that comes to your convenience the most.

On the day of the interview, you should bring the appropriate documentation with you at the specified time appointed by the consulate. This interview is an essential part of the visa application, as this is where they will determine whether you are truthful to your word or not.

Once they determine that you indeed aren’t trying to enter the U.S. on the basics of fraud, they will check the list of countries for which you have to pay the visa reciprocity fee. If you are on that list, then the next step would be to pay the reciprocity fee.

Civil Documents and How to Use Them

When you go to your visa interview, you also need to bring certain copies of your civil documents. This depends on your case, your country of origin, the state where you are planning to travel to – which is exactly why you need to check the list of civil documents required. This may include your marriage certificate, birth certificate, police records, and so on.

If you are applying for an immigrant visa through the U.S. consulate of your country, then you might be required to send photocopies along with original documents. If any of the documents are not written in English, then you will have to officially translate them.

The Visa Reciprocity page on the Department of State website will offer you detailed information on how to get these documents. After selecting your country of origin, you will be shown exactly what documents you have to provide at the interview.

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The Bottom Line

Visa reciprocity is a fee that not everyone has to pay, but if you are in a designated country and have passed your visa interview, then you will have to pay this fee. Unlike the visa application fee, the visa reciprocity one is the finish line that you need to get to.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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