US embassy to issue five-year visas from September

Kenyans travelling to the United States will from September 22 be eligible for five-year visas after the US Embassy in Nairobi announced the implementation date of increased validity from the current one year.

Students, temporary visitors, business people and tourists visiting the US will now be required to renew their visas only once every five years, welcome news to thousands of Kenyans who frequent the world’s superpower.

A statement by the US Embassy in Nairobi noted that the extension, which was agreed upon during President Barrack Obama’s July visit, will, however, require Kenyans to pay an extra $40 (Sh4,000) over and above existing fees.

US citizens eligible for Kenyan short-term business and tourist visas or student visas will also benefit from the new rule which is meant to deepen bilateral ties between the two countries.

“The reciprocal extension of visa validity to five years underscores the commitment of both the US and Kenya to promote bilateral trade and tourism, increase opportunities for people-to-people engagement, and enhance mutual understanding between our countries.”

The extension of visa validity period has been among the leading concerns from Kenyans who had appealed for a consideration between the two governments to implement a more relaxed regime.

One of the hindrances facing Kenyans travelling to the US is the requirement that they have to renew their visas every year, a time-consuming and costly process.

For instance, Kenyan students in the US, upon graduating, only have 60 days to leave the country, change to another visa status or apply for a new programme of study.

Failure to comply with these regulations leads to the loss of a student’s visa status and consequences like being prevented from re-entering the US for between three and 10 years.

“Kenyan students will find it easier and more convenient to return home because in many cases they will not be required to obtain new visas prior to returning to the US to study, as long as they remain full-time students in good standing,” the US Embassy in Kenya said.

The new visas, however, come at a premium as applicants will have to part with an extra $40 in addition to the basic non-immigrant visa application fee (MRV fee), a payment currently set at Sh$160 (Sh16,000).

The MRV fee covers costs associated with processing a visa application and is non-refundable.

“After the increase in visa validity goes into effect, qualified visa applicants will be required to pay an additional visa reciprocity fee, also known as a visa issuance fee before their visa will be issued,” the US Embassy in Kenya said.

“While most visa applicants are required to pay the visa application fee, the reciprocity fee is only charged to an approved non-immigrant visa applicant after the visa interview.”

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