The State Department has recently extended the validity of certain visas for citizens of France, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cuba. This trend may signal an effort is underway to adjust visa validity periods for other nationalities and visa types. Travelers are advised to monitor the State Department’s website for announced changes.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires the State Department, insofar as practicable, to “accord to such nationals the same treatment upon a reciprocal basis as such foreign country accords to nationals of the United States who are within a similar class.” INA 221(c), 8 USC section 1201(c). Accordingly, when determining the maximum validity periods for the different visa types for citizens of each country in the world, the State Department is required by law to match, whenever practicable, the validity periods provided to U.S. citizens by each country. For example, the Government of India permits the issuance of 10-year multiple-entry visas to U.S. citizens; therefore, the U.S. Government permits the issuance of 10-year multiple-entry visas to Indian citizens.
Based on this visa reciprocity law, the U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced that, effective September 29, 2023, DRC citizens can receive two-year, multiple-entry tourist and student visas. And most recently, the State Department increased the visa validity period for French E-1 and E-2 visa holders from 25-months to 48-months, partially reversing a 2019 downward adjustment from an original 60-month duration.
However, in a rare exception to reciprocity, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba announced that, as of August 25, 2023, B2 (visitor) visas issued to Cuban nationals may be valid for up to five years and permit multiple entries into the United States, although U.S. citizens are only eligible for single-entry, three-month visas to Cuba. The practical effect of this change is yet to be seen, as the U.S. Embassy in Havana does not currently process B2 visas for tourist travel.
In light of the State Department’s active review of visa reciprocity under INA 221(c), stakeholders in the U.S. visa system should anticipate more positive adjustments to visa reciprocity schedules.