• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s hike in visa-on-arrival fee to $170 sparks outcry

Nigeria has increased its visa-on-arrival biometric fee to a staggering $170, up from the previous $90, which has sparked significant controversy and inconvenience for travellers.

The policy, implemented with the exception of U.S. nationals who have been waived from the fee since last year, has drawn sharp criticism from both local and international travellers.

Visa on Arrival (VOA) is a service extended to business travellers and African Union citizens (excluding ECOWAS nationals) planning to visit Nigeria for business or tourism, contingent upon their nationality.

According to a US immigration law practice, Fragomen, “Travellers (except for U.S nationals, who have been waived from the fee since 1st March, 2023) are now subject to a higher visa-on-arrival biometric fee application of $170, excluding other related visa and transaction fees (up from $90).

The revised visa fee structure came to the forefront following a post by Larry Madowo, a CNN international correspondent, who shared his first-hand experience of the fee paid by travellers visiting Nigeria.

Madowo lamented that despite his frequent visits to the country, having been in Nigeria for three times in the current year alone, he has had to pay $215 each time for a one-month single-entry visa.

“Nigeria just charged me $215 for a one month single entry visa again. I was here three weeks ago – paid the same $215. This is actually my third time in Nigeria this year, so they have made $645 from me in 2024 alone,” Madowo said

“This visa itself costs $25, but Nigeria charges a $20 ‘processing fee’ and $170 for biometrics every time,” Madowo said. He questioned the rationale behind such high charges for basic entry procedures, emphasising that his fingerprints remain unchanged between visits, making the repeated biometric charges unjustifiable.

Madowo’s criticism extended to the broader implications of such policies on regional integration and economic cooperation within Africa. He pointed out the stark contrast with other African nations like Uganda, South Africa, and Ghana, where he faced no visa requirements with his Kenyan passport, emphasising the need for a more borderless and interconnected Africa.

“In the three weeks since I was last in Lagos, I went to Uganda, South Africa and Ghana where I don’t need a visa with a Kenyan passport. In fact, I have also been to South Africa three times this year. It cost me $0,” he said.

The inefficiencies of Nigeria’s visa system were also highlighted, drawing parallels to similar bureaucratic hurdles in other African countries. Madowo likened Nigeria’s visa-on-arrival process to Kenya’s Electronic Travel Authorization, which, despite being labelled as “visa-free,” involves cumbersome application procedures and potential delays.

“Nigeria’s visa-on-arrival system is similar to the “visa free” delusion of Kenya’s Electronic Travel Authorisation: you apply in advance, submit some documents and wait for it to be approved. It can take up to five business days. If you “someone,” you can pay them $50 or more to facilitate a faster approval,” Madowo said.

The outcry sparked by the increased visa fees underscores the growing frustration among travellers who advocate for streamlined visa processes, reduced fees, and enhanced regional integration efforts. As discussions around pan-African economic initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) continue, the need for more accessible and affordable travel arrangements remains a critical aspect of fostering continental unity and progress.

Ikechi Uko, a travel expert said Kenyans could get a Visa on Arrival at Abuja Airport for $25 and at Lagos Airport for $50 as of 2018. By 2022 they added $90 for Biometrics and this year they increased to $215.

“I have had many people from Kenya cancel trips when they added tickets and visas in the last 6 months. The only good news is that Hotel bills are cheap for dollar holding Foreigners. The pricing is anti-African. Reciprocity is acceptable but our Visa costs are no longer reciprocal.

“I have been going to Kenya since 1998. The so-called authorization I used last week is exactly the same process as the EVisa I used in November; just a change of name. No change,” Ikechi said.

He said Rwanda and Seychelles are the only countries with no Visa Hassles.