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Tourist Visa Fees On the Rise

Tourist visa fees on the rise all over the world, travel becomes more costly as the world comes together Visa fees are on the rise all over the world. It is a normal way of course for prices to go up as time goes on, and I know that I cannot strive for the same [...]

Tourist visa fees on the rise all over the world, travel becomes more costly as the world comes together

Visa fees are on the rise all over the world. It is a normal way of course for prices to go up as time goes on, and I know that I cannot strive for the same prices that I once paid to travel ten years ago, but within the past few years I have watched the cost of tourist visas to many countries double, triple, and even quadruple. Some countries say that this is to battle back and reciprocate the visa fees of other countries, some say that they are trying to raise revenue for this or that government program, some just seem to be scrapping as much money from tourists as they possibly can. Honestly, I don’t care what the reasons are — all I know is that dozens of countries all over the world now charge me over $100 to enter.

In an attempt at streamlining this article, and because I travel on a US passport, I have only referenced the visa fees applied to US citizens. Though the trend for visa fee hikes affect all travelers of the world, the cost of entering countries is drastically on the rise for all nationalities.

I sit back and I watch a world in flux. As the world’s political and economic systems are congealing together, as countries are teaming up together and organizing themselves into groups, federations, and zones, the doors that once stood open to travelers are being shut closed, and the guards at the gates are demanding a high price to pass through.

I sit back and watch more and more countries upping their fees for tourist visas to amounts that exceed 100 USD, some charging nearly 200. Not all of these countries are even “big draw” tourist zones, most, in fact, are regional backwaters who once welcomed in tourism with open arms — countries who, in the past, would not dare charge someone an excessive fee for simply wanting to visit and spend money within their borders. Some countries say that this is a reciprocity fee — if your country charges our citizens this much money, we are going you charge you that much — some countries say that they raise the price of their visas to cover the cost of various governmental projects or to “improve” their tourism infrastructure, and some countries don’t seem to give much of any explanation at all: one day it is free to enter, the next day you have to pay $150.

The result is that visa fees in excess of 100 USD have put up a major barrier to long term travelers on multi-country journeys and tourists on short vacations alike —  especially when they have families and need to pay for three or four visas.

A traveler rarely enters into one country without seeing a clear path to the next, travelers do not go to countries, they go to regions. When a country along my path wants $130 (X 3 for my family) to enter, it is a huge sign telling me to halt in my tracks, it is a sign that says:

You shall not pass.

List of countries currently charging high prices for tourist visas

Note: For standardization purposes, prices are for tourist visas for US citizens applied for in advance of travel at consulates in the USA. Visa prices and duration of allow stay often differ depending on the country you apply for them in.

Visa prices for UK, EU, Australia, and Canadian passport holders are sometimes different that those for US citizens, but the pricing trend is generally pretty consistent.

Map of high visa fees for us citizens

Map of countries charging high visa fees for US citizens

South America
Bolivia- $135
Brazil- $160
Chile- $140 reciprocity fee if flying into Santiago
Argentina- $140 reciprocity fee if flying into Buenos Aires
Suriname- $100
Paraguay- $100

Africa
Algeria- $166
Mauritania- $70
Ethiopia- $70
Tanzania- $120
Nigeria- $197
Madagascar- $84
Angola- $141
Niger- $100
Togo- $140
Burkina Faso- $100
Benin- $100
Cameroon- $140
Gabon- $100
Ivory Coast- $150
Chad- $100
Burundi- $80
Guinea- $100
Sierra Leone- $140
Liberia- $131
Gambia- $100
Mali- $131
Central African Republic- $150
Many other African countries- $60+

Asia
China- $140 for only 30 days!
Vietnam- $70
Laos- $50
India- $73 for six months
Pakistan- $120
Afghanistan- $50
Uzbekistan- $140
Tajikistan- $80
Azerbaijan- $131
Kyrgyzstan- $100
Armenia- $69

Europe
Russia- $140 + $20 invitation fee for only 30 days!

This is just a quick run down of high visa fees, it is not an all inclusive list. Generally, any fee under $50 I did not bother putting up, and I imagine that I missed some $100+ tourist visas as well. This list is just meant to give a picture of the true cost of multi-country, long term travel, as well as the shocking expense for a tourist wanting to visit a few countries on a short vacation.  This list was meant to be a barrage of dollar signs to provoke the realization that world travel has become more expensive very quickly. What is worse is that many of these high visa fees are relatively new — many were vastly less only a few years ago.

Is this the beginning of a trend that will only continue into the upcoming decades? Will we soon see a $1,000 tourist visa? The global auction is open, and many countries seem to be raising their prices for the highest bidder.

What is the impact of high visa fees for travelers?

I look at this list and the above map and I almost weep. My family of three travels on a single income. This means that we would need to pay $600 just to enter Nigeria, $480 to go to Brazil, $300 to visit Suriname or Paraguay, $360 for Tanzania, $420 to return to China for 30 days . . .

This is not possible. The above map may as well have big red slashes through the high visa cost countries, as, with my budget, it is not financially possible for us to travel there. My lifestyle is being exterminated, I am traveling in a very different world than when I stepped foot off the farm 11 years ago.

But these high visa fees don’t only affect long term travelers on tight budgets, they effect all tourists.

An example:

For a family of four from the USA to fly into Argentina and go on a short vacation from there to Paraguay and Brazil they are looking at $1600 in visa and reciprocity fees alone. Honestly speaking, a family would be hard pressed to spend this much money on every other vacation expense while in these countries.

I do not want to calculate the visa expenses to travel in West Africa.

Even for a middle class American family of four with a decent sized vacation budget, $640 just to enter Brazil may provide enough of a financial deterrent to spend their vacation domestically — maybe go to Florida again?

$131 is enough to make just about any traveler snicker and travel straight from Peru to Chile without bothering visiting Bolivia, just as a $100 visa fee to go Paraguay is enough to take a detour around this country in the middle of South America.

Do countries not want tourists? Do they really believe that we will continue happily pay double or triple the cost just for the privilege of crossing their borders? Are not tourists just global currency transporters? Is not the prime occupation of a tourist to take money from one country and deposit it directly into another? Why would any country want to do anything to inhibit the inflow of this quick cash? Do raised visa fees lessen tourism? Is there an end in sight, will countries continue doubling and tripling visa fees into the next decade?

Will global tourism continue to decline?

International tourism arrival chart

Chart showing international tourist arrivals and a projection for the future

Global tourism on the decline.

I feel as if I am missing something. Clearly, having to pay $197 per visa is going to inhibit the already sparse trail of tourists going to Nigeria. Clearly, having to pay $140 to enter Chile by air is going to push vacationers to Peru or Ecuador. Clearly, China charging $140 for a 30 day visa is going to make people reconsider their travel plans. I cannot see how high visa fees do not put up barriers to tourism. In a world of almost unlimited options for travel it is my impression that people are going to go where it will cost them the least amount of money given that most other factors are equal.

Am I going to pay $160 to get into Brazil or go to Colombia for free?

I am still looking for the hard facts on how high visa fees effect a country’s intake of tourists.

But, maybe, just maybe, some countries do not want all tourists, maybe they only want the truly rich — the people on organized tours, the people willing to roll high, spend big, then go home? Perhaps this is a global move towards low density, high income tourism.

What are the reasons for high visa fees?

What are the reasons for these large hikes in visa fees? Why, in the past few years, have many countries decided to double or triple their prices on tourist visas?

Some of these visa fee hikes are said to give financial support to this or that government program — Argentina says that they now charge US citizens $140 so they can upgrade their immigration computer system, the USA says that they will raise 600 million dollars to put National Guard troops on the Mexican border with money collected from raising the application fee for work visas.

For politicians to raise the taxes of their citizens is to put themselves on the proverbial cooker, so many governments seem to be trying to sidestep taxing their citizens by taxing tourists. Who would complain? Tourists don’t vote. So governments tax tourists and then get befuddled when the visitors to their country start to dwindle. For the past few years my country, the USA, has been concerned by the drop in foreign tourism — they can’t seem to figure out why not as many Europeans and people from other rich nations aren’t coming. So they stamp a $14 fee on tourists from visa-free countries to pay for a program to “promote US tourism abroad.”

Hmm, don’t you think that maybe the high visa fees and the difficult application process could be to blame?

I am sure that few Americans complained when higher visa fees are raised on foreign tourists. I am sure that there are no protests in the USA over the fact that domestic soldiers are being mobilized on the dime of prospective foreign workers. I am sure that very few of my countrymen give a shit that it now costs $2,000 for someone from abroad to apply for H-1B and L1 US work visas. I am sure that the current administration of my country thinks that they can get off the burner by charging foreigners whatever fee they want to pay for their new political initiatives without acknowledging the potential economic backlash that will come from a drop in tourism.

I am also sure that few people in Argentina care that Americans are being charged $140 to land in their capital’s airport. I am sure that there are no objections in Togo that US tourists are being slapped with a $140 visa fee in a country where the average annual income is $270. I hear no whimpers coming from the people of Pakistan that tourists are being charged $120 for one month in a country where the average monthly wage is $41.

But I do hear gripes about how global tourism is on the decline, I hear bull about countries trying to promote tourism, I see that most countries have tourism boards within their governments whose job it is to attract foreigners to come and visit. I have one thing to say: to raise tourism lessen the restraints and costs you slap on tourists.

Visa fees are turning into government fund raisers, a grab all where countries try to take whatever they can get without regard for how it will impact tourism, and, in the end, their own economies.

Another official reason for raising visa fees is that many countries are trying to match the fees that other countries charge for their citizens to enter. So a US citizen who wants to enter Argentina is charge the same amount that a Argentinean needs to pay to enter the USA. What’s fair is fair, right?

But are the countries who levy reciprocity fees just shooting themselves in the foot?

I suppose that is up to the individual country to decide. American tourists are a big part of just about any country’s tourism scheme — they tend to travel places, spend big money, and then split. Americans also don’t have a reputation for overstaying visas. I don’t hear too much about how Argentinean tourists are supporting the US economy. But this is another argument.

Ultimately, high visa fees — from whatever country for whatever reason — serve to inhibit tourism. Even if a poor backpacker only drops $15 a day in a country, that is $15 a day that was not previously in the “on the ground” economy. It is my impression that restrictions on tourism do not benefit ANY country — whether it is that of the USA or that of Argentina, Togo, or China.

Tourism is still the biggest industry on planet earth.

I am also sure that the potential sales tax (or the equivalent) that is levied on the items that a would be tourist could purchase in a country on would more than likely outweigh any visa fee. Tourists in a country = money.

The prime occupation of travel is spending money. I travel cheaply, but I still walk around all day long just spending money.

Tourists don’t only mean money for the local vendors and service providers but also for the government in tax revenue extracted from these businesses and industries. High visa fees discourage tourism (all tourism, not just backpackers), and this lowers the amount of money that a potential visitor is going to leave behind in a prospective country.

Governments around the world don’t seem to understand that visa fees and the amount of tourism they attract are inversely proportional: the more money you charge tourists to enter your country, the less people will visit, the less tourists you attract, the less money you will make. This seems to be simple logic to me, but, clearly, it is not.

Or perhaps many countries want to limit tourism?

This seems difficult to believe, but the writing is on the wall. I will continue to show how countries — and even entire regions — are currently taking vast actions which limit tourism in this series on The Extermination of the Backpacker.

Sources: most visa fee information was taken from VisaHQ | UN predicts global tourism decline | Tourism on decline | US visa rise costs Indian IT workers

Related articles: World divides as it comes together | Visa costs in South America | Argentina creates reciprocity fee | Exit fees corrupt, high visa fees inhibit tourism

To read the other articles in this series, use the navigational links below or at the top of this page

Filed under: Economics, Tourism, Travel Economics, Travel Lifestyle, Visas

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3413 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

36 comments… add one

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  • craig | travelvice.com September 28, 2010, 2:57 pm

    In July 2009 I paid US$35 to enter Laos. (30 day visa on arrival in the Lao PDR is available at all ports of entry in Laos including the airports of the main cities. Visa cost ranges from $20 (China) to $42 (Canada). Sweden is $31, $35 for the USA, UK and most of Europe, $40 for India, and $30 for Australia and most other countries.)

    http://projectvisa.com/ is a great resource.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 28, 2010, 5:17 pm

      Thanks for this comment, it shows the variations in visa pricing depending on where and how you get them. It is amazing to me that visa prices often vary depending on the country you apply for them in, when you receive them, if you can get them at the border or not etc . . . Amazingly, almost everything about visas and immigration is never standard and is always changing. I have never understood why this is with the ease of international communication that is available in this current era.

      For standardization purposes, all prices shown above are for getting a visa in advance in the USA.

      It seems as if a visa to Laos obtained at the border or airport costs $35, to get it from some consulates (Cambodia, USA) it is $50.

      LP thread on Laos visa prices

      I have no idea why someone would pay more to get it in advance.

      I think I paid $30 for a Lass visa from the consulate in Kunming, China in 2005.

      Discrepancies everywhere. Going to put a note above saying that all prices are from consulates in the USA.

      Link Reply
  • Caitlin September 28, 2010, 10:21 pm

    Sorry I don’t have time to read the whole post (will later hopefully)… but wanted to quickly comment on the question of “why do countries do this, don’t they want tourists?”

    I think in the case of countries like Bolivia, yes indeed it’s pretty stupid to have such a big fee because people already traveling through South American might skip it.

    For African countries I think makes more sense (from the country’s point of view.) On the whole, there are less people going on cross-Africa trips (at least in West Africa.) Most people I met in Ghana or Burkina went just to that country, maybe to volunteer for a few months or visit someone they know, and they may have visited one more country while in the region. But mostly they are going to a specific country. So, when you’ve signed up for some program or coughed up 2000 dollars for the plane ticket an extra 100 bucks isn’t going to stop you.

    Incidentally, if you buy tourist visas IN Africa they are a lot cheaper. A Togolese visa bought in Canada would have been 140 bucks, but bought in Ghana it was 30. A Ghanaian visa bought in Canada costs a fortune, but you can get a single-entry in Ouagadougou for about 25 dollars.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 29, 2010, 10:36 am

      I am glad that the discussion turned to the fact that visa fees are often not consistent — they depend on where you get them, and often seem to be cheaper closer to the source. It is good that you can still get cheaper West African visas while in the region, though I still find it ridiculous that they charge so much at consulates outside of the region.

      It costs $140 for a 30 day Chinese visa in the USA, but I can get a 90 day (or even more) visa for less money in Hong Kong. If I got my visa to Syria in the USA the cost would have been $131 for 15 days, but I paid vastly less at the border. Visa costs are one of the great inconsistencies of world travel, there is no telling when they will change, how they will be different from country to country, consulate to consulate, how many days you can get, how long the visa will be valid for. For example, I crossed into Syria from Turkey in the spring of 2009 and paid a relatively small fee for the visa, but now I hear that it is much more difficult for Americans to get visas at the border now, that they may really need to apply in their home country and pay $131.
      I quoted prices for US consulates above, as this was the only real standard I could determine — visa fees are a mess to try to organize into a concise piece.

      It makes sense for countries to up the cost in preparation for single country visitors on “projects,” but maybe the tourism structure of West Africa would change if it became more convenient and cheaper to collect visas in your home country and then blaze a tourist trail through the region? But this will change, I predict tourism in Africa to really take off in the next 20 years — it is the only region of the world where tourism is on the rise.

      Thanks for this comment and sharing your experience.

      Link Reply
  • craig | travelvice.com September 28, 2010, 10:32 pm

    Wade, I just wanted to mention the ugly sibling of the visa fee: THE EXIT TAX.

    For my family this nonsense costs us US$100 to leave Peru, and of course you’re familiar other locations who impose this fee, such as Israel… which can get really out of hand (US$128, 161.5 shekels x 3 passports – depending on your point of departure).

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 29, 2010, 10:38 am

      Haha, I am going to get to exit/entrance fees soon. They are sneaky taxes, one last way for a country to scape whatever is left out of you. These misc fees are starting to really add up — $100 is a week of living.

      Link Reply
  • Paulo Martins September 29, 2010, 5:47 am

    Wade, I’m sooo glad I’m traveling on a Portuguese passport.

    Are these fee rises a scheme to keep US citizens out? Luckily CA-4 is still dead cheap, but for how much longer?

    Ciao 4 now

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 29, 2010, 10:46 am

      A lot of it has to do with the fact that countries are trying to pressure the USA into lowering the costs on visas for their citizens. The USA has very high visa fees for many countries, and these countries are now matching these fees and charging US citizens the same amount. They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot, as US tourists tend to just dump money all over the world. Oh well, if they don’t want us we will just go to Florida haha.

      Yes, the CA-4 is still a good region for travel, and they have, as of now, just taken action to limit the amount of expats, long term travelers, rather than creating policy that will impact the bulk of their tourism.

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  • the candy trail ... October 7, 2010, 9:35 am

    Another interesting post … F**K. you guys are getting ripped. There’s definitely something there to do with the USA. And politics, I dare say.

    As a New Zealander, having traveled to most of the countries you outlined I can tell you that certainly visa costs are criminal for some parts of the world for all travelers .

    South America was mostly free, for me, except Paraguay & Brazil (about $US30 in 2003-03); West Africa – is one of the worst zones: the cheapest are around $30 – 40, Ghana, say $60, with Sierra Leone and Liberia clocking in at $150 & $100.

    Russia is no bargain and SE Asia has also gone up somewhat. Vietnam was $20 in 1994, now a few weeks ago I paid $60 …

    Bottomline: travel will be thing exclusively for the rich within 20 years as the rich masses of the developing world also crowd in on the “exciting travel action” …

    Regards – MRP | the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 8, 2010, 12:45 pm

      Haha, yeah man, but at least we don’t have to boot the cost of a ticket to NZ each time we want to swing through home for a visit haha. But, right on, we are getting ripped — totally political wiener bragging:

      “We charge you this much for visas.”

      “Oh yeah, well we are you this much.!”

      “YEAH! Well we are going to charge YOU this much more!”

      “OH YEAH! well we are going . . . ”

      On and on.

      Have no idea where this is going to end, and with the USA again raising visa fees we are looking at many of these charges getting even higher. This is really getting out of control, countries are using visa fees specifically to fund government programs that they are too broke to pay for themselves. Real immature, short sighted nonsense — as I am sure that the taxes made off of foreign tourists directly and residually in the USA would be far higher than any money that could be made from raising visa fees. Stupid

      But I suppose this just means that I am going to be staying in each country for the full duration of my visa, which is not a bad thing to do at all.

      Link Reply
  • Mark (Irish) October 22, 2010, 7:15 pm

    While I agree that this is too much, you’ve hit the nail on the head there with the “you charge us what we charge you” idea. If you want tourist fees reduced, start with your own house, get onto the people “Protecting our Borders”. America claims to be a world leader, well here’s a perfect opportunity to do just that.

    And as a previous poster pointed out, those fees in your diagram are way over the odds that you will pay at the land border.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 28, 2010, 7:17 pm

      I fear that countries like Bolivia have much more to loose by charging Americans (who once made up a fifth of their total tourism) high visa fees than the USA has levying high visa fees on Bolivians. The cold facts of the matter is that if it was free for foreigners to apply for US visas I am sure that millions upon millions upon millions would apply. It is my impression that if any country received as many visa applications as the USA does then the fees would rise sky high. Supply and demand I suppose. Reciprocy fees are constructed out of spite. The US charges high visa fees to people in developing countries as a test to be sure that they have enough money to support themselves and something to return to in their home countries to show that they intend to go home (as well as to make money, of course. $50 is cheap for a hotel room in the USA, whereas you could just about live in Bolivia for a week on this much money.

      But, in the end, high visa fees benefit nobody.

      But I know that I have no control over my government, and, it is my impression, that most people in the world stand in a similarly impodent position.

      I also did not spare my own country from criticizm above, as I know that it has some of the highest visa fees in the world. Though you are right, somebody has to do something — this is getting out of control.

      Right on about land border crossings, as most countries seem to know that money paid at their overland frontiers will never make it back to the capital haha.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Walk Slow,

      Wade

      Link Reply
  • E.C. January 13, 2011, 6:00 am

    Can you believe i paid $75. cash for a 59 day visa for the philippines and now stayed an extra month and that cost me an extra $155… I am totatlly fried over that… and now the immigration wants $225. for each one of my twin babies that are finally able to fly back to canada…. They are 3 years old and i think canada citizens when they were 2 years old and now have canada passports too… so at present the philippine government is holding my babies for ransom to say the least. help me americans and canadians on this one… thank you , Edward..and so my twin girls are getting fined as well for staying here ilegally even though they were born in manila…

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 13, 2011, 10:00 am

      These visa, exit, and other immigration fees are getting out of control. But there is not much you can do about it. Pay the fees, get on with it, or offer a bribe of a lesser amount — often times immigration officials are not too straight laced when it comes to greasing their own pockets.

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  • Stephan February 11, 2011, 2:00 pm

    I think these visa fees are mainly because the US is very unfair towards visitors. For example here in Peru it costs about USD 150 to apply for a visa to the US. If you do not get the visa, the payment is not refunded. They deny 90% of all visa requests, usually without giving a reason…

    Now it does not look so unfair anymore that US citizens have to pay for a visa to enter South American countries. At least with this fee you are guaranteed to be allowed to enter.

    Please note that I have a EU passport and did not have to pay any fee to enter to Peru, Argentina, Ecuador and Brasil. In Peru there is USD 32 airport tax when you leave by Lima airport. They are now starting to include this in the ticket prices. Airport taxes in Europe and US are already included in the ticket prices.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 11, 2011, 2:19 pm

      So you feel that it is fair for me to have to pay more money because South Americans have a reputation for overstaying their visas and working illegally in the USA? This is the reason for the high fees and denials of visas. It is the job of consulates to try to weed people out who they feel may break the law in their country, and, perhaps unfairly, they use income, family history, assets to help them make a decision. If South Americans generally followed the immigration laws of the USA, then it does not seem to me as if there would be a problem with giving them visas on demand — but all too many use a visa to the USA as a way to work illegally and try to stay permanently. If a movement of Americans were doing this in South America then I would expect high visa fees.

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      • Mark February 11, 2011, 2:26 pm

        That’s a ridiculous assessment Wade. “Have a reputation for overstaying visas?” Come on, there’s not a country in the world that doesn’t have immigration problems, it doesn’t excuse the US for their ridiculous fees. Anyone wanting to get to USA to live will happily pay whatever fee it is, charging it for a tourist fee is just silly.

        Link Reply
        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 11, 2011, 2:34 pm

          Perhaps reputation does not have as much to do with the fee than the refusal of most applicants. The “fee” is probably just another measure to make sure that the applicant has enough money to support themselves and to sort out those who may have a chance at getting the visa (rich) from those who don’t (poor). Immigration is a classist endeavor. It is just the way it is. Countries want visitors to come, spend money, and leave. As far as tourism is concerned they want the rich or people who can afford to pump cash into their economies, not the poor looking for refuge. There is a massive difference between the average wages of people in the USA and those in Peru and also a massive difference in cost of living. People from the USA and Europe tend to get paid more and the cost of living in these places is vastly higher. These people can often afford to travel in South America. The other way around, the applicant needs to be pretty wealthy to afford to travel in a country where one night of accommodation costs half an average worker’s monthly wage. Again, this is just the way it is. The fee is probably just an additional indication of class (and a way for governments to make money, of course).

          I am not standing on the side of right and wrong, but there are global patterns that govern the flow of immigration (legal and illegal) worldwide, and vastly more is going north than south in the Americas. Think supply and demand here.

          Also, US tourists in South America consist of vastly more of the local economy than the other way around. Part of my point was that charging Americans high visa fees are going to discourage them from visiting and leaving their money behind. Which is going to hurt the country missing out on a large part of their tourist market.

          It is funny, but most travelers from the USA would not bulk at dropping $50 to $100 a day in South America staying at nicer hotels and drinking in bars, but a one time $130 visa fee IS going to deter them. Look at Bolivia, they really shot themselves in the foot. It also does not change the status of the visa fee for Bolivians coming to the USA — it just perpetuates a pissing war that the US will always win, with the people of all countries involved losing.

          Sure, as I said in the article above, high visa fees benefit nobody but governments. But when it comes to fairness, the reasons behind the US charging high visa fees for South Americans are vastly different than why South American governments are charging Americans high visa fees.

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          • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 11, 2011, 2:57 pm

            Also, are you refuting the suggestion that vastly more people from Latin America are overstaying their visas in the USA and working illegally than the other way around?

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          • Stephan February 11, 2011, 4:29 pm

            A visa fee of USD 150 does not help to select if people want to immigrate illegally. People will gladly pay this for the “better live” in the US. Actually, people pay a lot more to pass the border illegally. Besides the fees they look at employment records, bank records, family situations etc.. The visa fee really has no use and why do they not refund it if they deny the visa?

            So from the point of view of the people in South America it is certainly fair if people from the US have to pay a visa fee. If it is smart to do this (tourist income), is another matter. I guess politicians follow the wishes of the people here.

            Besides that visa’s are denied for many people who do have good jobs and their own businesses, and only want to visit Disney Word in the US for example. So the US is loosing tourist money too.

            Anyways I do agree that there should not be any visa fees in any country, including the US. The US started this though and I guess they might be the only ones who can stop it.

            Link Reply
  • European Resident February 16, 2011, 11:20 am

    if you change the perspective a little and look that it from the perspective of non”OECD” countries the visa costs and travel hurdles are even more worrisome. A US citizen can travel to around 140 countries without a pre-approved visa, but someone from India can only travel to around 40. Also while a US citizen has no entry costs getting into the UK, anyone from India ( and most other “developing” countries) pays a whopping $400 for a visit visa. Whats with that?

    Link Reply
  • Jeff R March 9, 2011, 12:56 am

    The visa fees make no sense. Many of these countries need US tourists MUCH MUCH more than the US needs tourists from those countries, this concept of reciprocity is absolute nonsense. I was planning on a visit to China but decided just to visit Hong Kong for now since I didn’t feel like dropping $140 on a visa for what would be a 3 week visit at most…but that is tourist revenue lost for China…I’m sure there are many US tourists thinking like me, especially those with families…deciding to head to alternative destinations.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 9, 2011, 9:17 am

      Right on. This is so true. Many countries seem to do whatever they can in their power to inhibit tourism and then complain about being poor and make bids for foreign aid. The tax revenue alone on the general tourist spending money in a country would almost always be higher than a ridiculous visa fee. What is worse is that the US is not receptive at all to such reciprocity fees — they know that the bulk of their tourism comes from rich countries, and if a high visa fee means that a handful of Bolivians are not going to visit, oh well. But US citizens once made up 25% of Bolivia’s total tourist count. Big difference here. China is a country who could dominate the world of foreign tourism, but they make their visas expensive and complicated which probably makes would be travelers decide to go elsewhere — money lost. In this scheme, it is the countries like Mexico — who give 180 day tourist visas on arrival, easy to renew — that rake in the cash, while many of the backwaters of the planet remain as such. I have written this many times before, but poverty is a mentality. This is no better shown than a county who could allow their people to prosper from foreign tourism limiting such because of a sick rendition of little dog syndrome.

      Thanks for this comment.

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    • Stephan March 9, 2011, 12:16 pm

      It maybe that other countries need the tourists more than the US. It however does not make it fair that people from another countries have to pay to visit the US. People want fair treatment and not be bullied around by the US because they have more money or are larger.

      And for China, they really do not need the US tourists. They already have so many Dollars that if they would change them all in one, the Dollar would be wordless. Also many of the Latin American countries are going well economically now, they do not need the US tourists anymore. The US tourists are becoming only a small part of the economy and there are still tourists from other countries.

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 9, 2011, 1:26 pm

        So you feel that it is fair for people in the local tourist industries of many developing countries that their governments are impeding their streams of income in order to participate in a political pissing match?

        Fairness is irrelevant here. If you don’t want to pay the visa fee to go to the USA, then don’t. I am not going to pay $130 to go to Bolivia. But who is this going to hurt more? Me? The USA government? The people of countries that myself and many more would travel to if their governments did not make entry so expensive and/or difficult?

        Please back up your statements that China and Latin America don’t need US tourists? Show me that US tourists are not a large part of the tourist economies of Latin America — if not the largest non-Latino element?

        You are from Europe, are you not?

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        • Stephan March 9, 2011, 2:35 pm

          So you think that other smaller or poorer countries should accept what ever the US does to their citizens? They have to bend over to the US for a little money? Fairness is relevant. Countries put these fees to show to the US that what they are doing is not right, citizens (who have to pay the fee) have a vote and can help to change this situation.

          Regarding to economies, I was not referring to tourist economies. I was referring to the complete economy. Really the US tourist are a very small number here. Look at the economy of Brasil or China (which both have a much better outlook than the US economy), do you really think tourist money would even be visible here? These are the largest growing economies in the world. That is certainly not based on US tourism.

          Yes, I’m from Europe, but I live in Peru. My point is that all entry and exit fees are ridiculous. They only help the governments to waste more money. To blame the other countries for this is in my opinion not right though. It is the US who started this and therefore the US who should get the blame.

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          • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 9, 2011, 4:25 pm

            I believe you missed the plot here. We are talking about tourism and, mostly, the on the ground local economy.

            You say that all entry and exit fees are ridiculous. If you go back up and read the the article you will find that I said the same thing to start off with.

            You said:

            “So you think that other smaller or poorer countries should accept what ever the US does to their citizens?”

            I think countries should do what is best for their own citizens. This was my main point in this discussion with you. Do you believe that it is best for Nigerians that their country charges $200 for a tourist visa? These fees do nothing to help the people — the USA is not going to say, “Oh no, Nigeria has matched our visa fee, we better lower ours.” No way, man, no way.

            Countries can charge whatever they want for their visas, there is no blame here. The choice is up to the traveler to pay them or not. I can say for sure that high visa fees inhibit would be tourists.

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          • Stephan March 9, 2011, 5:46 pm

            My point is not that visa fees are any good. However I do understand the concept of reciprocity fees and why they are applied. The economies are a lot bigger than only tourism, and this why governments may not be to worried about missing US tourists. Of course this varies a lot per country.

            I share your doubt that it will be effective for one country to charge reciprocity visa fee, but how else can they fight those fees? And what if many countries use reciprocity fees? Maybe at some point it will have the desired effect.

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  • Steve October 13, 2011, 6:48 pm

    The visa fee, just the visa fee to come to the United States, is $330.00 and I have a family of 4. Then the application fees and other various fees to immigrate “legally” is over $5,000. One might think that with all the immigrants and the fees paid, the immigration office would be rolling in money. But maybe they have too many employees, and many of them can’t even answer any questions about the forms. Where do they find these people, and what is the reason for such high prices.

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    • Wade Shepard October 13, 2011, 10:00 pm

      Maybe the cost is so high because if it wasn’t everyone and their grandmother would be applying for a US visa? It seems as if there are some countries that they want tourists from and for others they couldn’t care less. Crappy, but that’s just the way it is.

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  • Stamp March 30, 2012, 7:43 pm

    As a Pole I think that the relatively high cost of visas for Americans is due to reciprocity. The cost of U.S. visas for Poles is now $ 160 and rising. There is a high pressure on the Polish government to introduce visas for Americans on a reciprocal basis. We need fairness more than tourists’ money and I think it’s quite easy to understand. No one, not even the Americans, can avoid the consequences of its own policies.

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    • Wade Shepard April 6, 2012, 6:07 am

      Would be difficult for Poland to institute fees for Americans as it’s part of the Schengen zone. Really, I think those in the tourist industry of your country values American tourists more than principle though.

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  • Tim Lowe November 1, 2012, 6:55 pm

    Wade, The US should lower our VISA fees (the highest in the world) on tourists. Many countries engage in reciprocity fees which have gone up last week for many South American countries. If you go to Argentina and do not pay the fee in advance of landing, you may not leave the airport. Hows that for a vacation?

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    • Wade Shepard November 1, 2012, 8:43 pm

      The consulates of the USA get MOUNTAINS of visa applications each day. A high percentage are rejected. The high visa fees for some nationalities seems to be a way of thinning the herd, so to speak, by preventing people who wouldn’t be awarded a visa before they even apply. Is this good, right, or fair? Probably not, but no immigration system in the world works on these principles. Should the US adapt to a changing world and reevaluate their immigration policies for applications from many countries? Definitely.

      What I have to ask here is is it fair for the people in the grassroots tourist industries of countries like Bolivia or Nigeria to have their governments intentionally impede on their flow of business in a useless power spat with the USA?

      More controversially, is it fair for me to have to pay more money to enter a country where I’m just going to spend money because citizens from their country have a reputation for overstaying their visas and working illegally when they go abroad?

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      • Mark November 2, 2012, 4:07 am

        I had a feeling this week’s news would shove this blog back into the limelight.

        Wade, there are plenty of ways of filtering through the applications that are automatically rejected. Putting silly high processing fees is not one of them (well, it’s one that you only seem to like when the boot’s on the one foot).

        Until Americans drop their fees, expect fees for them to rise.

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        • Wade Shepard November 2, 2012, 6:58 pm

          Sure. I agree with the first part of your comment — there probably are other ways. But I have to ask, has there ever been a precedent for the US lowering visa fees because another country matched it in retaliation? I don’t know of a case. If you do, let me know. Now, don’t you think that countries who could probably use the grassroots funds that tourism leaves behind are, as my mother would put it, “biting off their noses to spite their faces,” just a little? Does high visa fees inhibit tourism? Definitely.

          If retaliatory reciprocity fees are meant to push the US lower their fees, it’s a method that just doesn’t work.

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