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The unforgivable crime of being American

Today I visited the consulate of an Asian nation to apply for a tourist visa. When observing the visa application fee, I noticed that those travelling on a U.S. passport must pay almost three times more for a visa to enter this particular country. I believe many other countries impose an extraordinary surcharge for visa applicants travelling as U.S. citizens, too. Talk about American exceptionalism.

Still, I expect Americans are used to this sort of arrangement. When it comes to a whole suite of multilateral projects, the rest of the world expects the American taxpayer to cough up a hugely disproportionate share. When the American taxpayer wants to travel to the rest of the world, they find themselves paying considerably more for an entry visa to many countries as punishment for their poor choice of nationality.

Being a U.S. citizen must rankle at times.

28 comments to The unforgivable crime of being American

  • Peter

    That might have something to do with the US forcing new passports with (expensive) chips and fingerprints and bio-id stuff on everyone who wishes to enter the US. That money’s got to come from somewhere. TANSTAAFL.

  • It is still something to aspire to. It’s hard to be a patriotic Englishman with England steadily metamorphosing into Airstrip One. I think it might be easier to be a patriotic American. Given US tax rates, it is also (expensive visas nothwithstanding) rather cheaper.

  • Chris H

    This cuts both ways. When I was getting my H1 visa from the American Consulate in Bordeaux, I noticed that while this was free for me (a British citizen), French citizens had to pay a hefty fee.

  • Paul


    Yes, patriotism is still strong and widely accepted in the states, save a few liberal enclaves.

    I was in Germany last year on business. I was kind of shocked at not only the lack of patriotism of Germans, but their rejection of the idea. Yeah, yeah the war and all that. But I said to these Germans, and I was in a old Ruhr town, ‘Hey, this is a nice town, all rebuilt. You rebuilt it, you made modern Germany. You should be proud and use it as a guide to the future, which is yours.’ I don’t think they have heard such notions.

    I’m afraid I haven’t been to the UK. If I do, I’m afraid I’ll be spending all my time between the various Imperial War Museums. The notion of a Brit not proud and patriotic is just plain sick.

    I blame the socialists. Everything must be stripped away. Every institution and relation. All feelings and passions. It’s worse than anything in 1984 or Clockwork Orange.

  • andrew duffin

    “Still, I expect Americans are used to this sort of arrangement. ”

    Just as we are used to their exported goods, such as, oh I don’t know – software? movies? – being sold here in the UK for the same number of pounds as they pay in dollars, ie twice the price.

    Sauce, Goose, Gander, etc.

  • As an Aussie currently living in the UK with my (proudly!) English husband I’ve encountered a bizarre double-standard. It seems that being proud to be Welsh, Scots or Irish is to be admired, while if you are English you’re expected to be proud of your Britishness. There is an odd cultural cringe surrounding pride in English heritage – it’s not politically correct to be English!

  • An English internet acquaintance of mine once related about how he traveled from the States to Canada, on a tour. His American hosts were waved through customs, but he–a fellow subject of Her Britannic Majesty–was given the full treatment.

    Maybe it just depends on what neighborhood you’re in.

  • Orson

    Visa fees are charged on a reciprocal basis: Americans pay what Homeland Security charges citizens from each country respectively.

  • Earl Harding

    andrew duffin,

    17.5% VAT and various import taxes account for much of the difference in price between the US and the UK.

    If fact, given the strength of the pound against the dollar right now I would say that your fellow countrymen are the ones to blame.

  • I would just assume that it is a result of the higher level of “service” that Americans enjoy from the hosting state based on the realities of Sumus est civis Americanus.

  • Nick M


    Some of us English are still proud as punch to be of the nation of Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin, Elgar and Turing. Some of us are intensely patriotic. There’s an old idea that being born English is to win the lottery of life. That is of course guff because if I was Somalian I wouldn’t be me… but, but… it’s worth thinking about.

    I have no idea what attracts people to this “progressive” self-hatred. I’m proud that my nation built an Empire upon which the sun never set (until it did – a curse be laid upon your nappy, Gandhi) because regardless of the good and ill the British Empire brought to the world it was an adventure. Perhaps it is the lack of adventure you detect in modern Europe?

    But then I’m a Civ player.

    If you do visit the UK then the Imperial War Museum (London) is well worth a look and the Imperial War Museum North (Salford) is worth seeing (if not worth going to see) because it’s stuff is quite quirky (e.g. a Vietnamese canoe constructed from a 370 US gal drop tank from an F-4) which is kinda cool.

    The real jewel in the crown though is Duxford. It’s near Cambridge but is worth the trip alone. They’ve got working tanks and all sorts of cool stuff in their developing land war exhibition but the air exhibition isn’t just sex – it’s a threesome with Halle Berry and Uma Thurman. Apart from the USAF collection (which is utterly brilliant) most of the rest is housed in listed inter-war hangars and in some of them you can chat with the fitters and riggers. I had a great chat with a bloke doing-up a Yak-3. It’s better than the Smithsonian (including the Stephen F Udvar-Hazy Annex) and that is saying something.

    Well, I’m happy to be British but I’m proud to be English. Our current government has on occasions attempted to slur the English as being intrinsically “violent” unlike our celtic fringes (clearly they have never been for a night out in Glasgow when both Rangers and Celtic lost at home). Having said all of that woe-betide the rest of the world if the English ever have another St Crispin’s Day.

    I do wonder how unusual I am. I wonder how much blood will hit the ceiling if our pals in Iran nuke London.

    I have many rellies in Australia and I’d love to visit the place. If only they’d move it a bit closer. Just off Portugal would be fine.

  • Just as we are used to their exported goods, such as, oh I don’t know – software? movies? – being sold here in the UK for the same number of pounds as they pay in dollars, ie twice the price. Sauce, Goose, Gander, etc.

    What is your point? Clearly retail prices are set by British retailers (and the UK tax man), not US suppliers. Hell, in the past I have bought British products in the USA for less than I could get them in the UK!

  • Yes it does rankle sometimes.

    Even reading the comments here I notice hostile dependency.

    For example: I don’t notice an increase in services when traveling – in fact, as soon as someone realizes I’m American, the prices go up and I have to listen to how America is at fault for everything that’s wrong in their own countries.

    I spent a year in the Orient (years ago) and there were 3 prices on everything. The local price, the American price and the Japanese price.

    They charged the Japanese more simply because they were still mad about WWII. They charged Americans more because they know we’ll pay it.

    At least the Japanese price was the highest and they didn’t like them. They acted like they liked us, raising the price for us was just business. 🙂

  • Quenton

    Here is the official US Government statement on what they charge non-immigrant Visa entrants. According to the statement the US only charges an entry fee if that person’s country of origin charges US citizens one. Seems to be the exact opposite of what Orson says.

    There is, however, a one-time charge of about $100 to pay for the cost of making a “machine readable” visa. Yeah, that part is crap simply because I don’t think it’s right to make someone else pay for the cost when they get no benefit from it over the “old” type.

    Or, you could avoid the fee by just waltzing across our southern or northern borders at night (and only at night, the only people ever caught cross during daylight).

  • zerlesen

    “Seems to be the exact opposite of what Orson says.”

    How so? I know the link says “The United States strives to eliminate visa issuance fees whenever possible…” but you’ll forgive me for not taking that completely seriously.

    For what it’s worth, my experience has been in line with Orson’s. Visa issues tend to be more or less reciprocal: it’s why the list of nationalities eligible for a US visa waiver is what it is, and so forth.

    “I believe many other countries impose an extraordinary surcharge for visa applicants travelling as U.S. citizens, too. Talk about American exceptionalism.”

    Not really. God knows, the process of applying for an American work visa is expensive, time-consuming, and entirely subject to the whims of random bureaucrats. (I’m sure this is true in other countries as well. I’ve found the Australians to be most efficient, but am glad to be able to remain ignorant of how easy or hard it is to get a visa to the UK.)

  • Quenton

    By “opposite” I mean that Orson’s statement seems to imply that the fees originate from the US side and that the other nations are charging their fees in response. The US Government says it is their fees which are the response to the other nation’s fees. I was not saying that reciprocity was not an issue, I was just pointing out that the official stance blames “the other side” for the reciprocity.

    Of course “who started it” isn’t really that important, as it is the traveller, not the governments, who foot the bill for this little game of “But mooooooooom! He did it first!” .

  • Michiganny

    Yes, patriotism is still strong and widely accepted in the states, save a few liberal enclaves.

    That is true. There is also a lot of parading about under the guise of patriotism as well. To me, I would prefer not to hear that somebody else is right because they say they love my country.

    To me, it is as painful to listen to Bill O’Reilly as to observe a “Take Back The Night!” march. Actually, since you can heckle marchers, that makes them less excruciating but no less self-righteous.

  • Bob

    Excuse me Michiagnny; is someone forcing you to tune in to Bill O’Reilly?

    That is terrible. Why don’t you complain to the ACLU? Or perhaps you could get Nancy Pelosi to pass a law.

    Back to the subject of visas, taxes etc. I assume each country makes decisions that it considers to be in its self interest. As I have worked in a variety of countries, including the UK, I know that each and every one becomes very protective if it appears there is a chance that you will infringe on nationalistic commercial or “labor” prerogatives.

  • Sometimes it does rankle to be a US citizen. A little. Then I remember the alternatives.

  • JB

    I had the experience of shopping with a native Chinese in Beijing. I paid the Chinese price, but not through any fault of my own. The “American” price was about 10 times higher.

  • I don’t know about other countries, but the Yanks get charged more for a Russian visa, the official reason being that Russians get charged a similar amount to enter the US.

    That said, for anyone wanting a Russian visa the procedure can be summarised as follows:

    1. Down trou’.
    2. Assume position.
    3. Brace for dry entry.

  • Terry Wrist

    Higher visa prices have to be a gentle hint that certain countries would prefer to welcome only the more affluent visitors. As for “hate Japanese”, it depends where you go. In Viet Nam I always make a point of saying I’m British in response to the standard conversation opener, “Where are you from?” Face it Cousins, pariah nation status beckons, and thanks to Scary George, the UK is being tarred with the same brush. The English gentleman image is one of my main intangible assets as I “seek my fortune in the Colonies”. Take that away, and all I’ll have are my ready wit, charm and rapidly fading good looks. A dismal prospect indeed, kind Sirs.

  • michael farris

    “The US Government says it is their fees which are the response to the other nation’s fees.”

    The US Government is lying then:


    non-immigrant visas cost at minimum $100 (technically an application fee that’s not refunded if the visa application is denied as a majority are).



    “US Citizens can travel to Poland for tourism and business for up to 90 days without visa. Work and residence visas for U.S. citizens are free of charge.”

    This is how the US government treats one of its biggest and most loyal allies…. kind of puts a lump in your throat.

  • zerlesen

    pwyll: “Sometimes it does rankle to be a US citizen. A little. Then I remember the alternatives.”

    It’s true, pwyll: every day spent outside the blessed aegis of US citizenship is an agonizing torment. And yet somehow we get by.

  • Sue

    I don’t understand why people seeking to get into a country complain about visa fees. The United States, for example, has a lot of people who want to get into it, whether for tourism, business, immigration or what have you. This necessitates a gigantic and expensive bureaucracy to process all of these would-be entrants if we are to have any clue who is coming into the country (and security demands that we know). Why should I, as a US taxpayer, have to subsidize a foreigner’s visa with my money? Any why should the taxpayer of any other country have to subsidize me?

  • Reid of America

    The extra fees are chump change. I don’t mind paying extra as long as I get my boots licked by thankful third worlders.

  • The US charges relatively high – but uniform – visa fees for visitors from countries that do not qualify for visa-free entry into the US. It charges these fees in order to handle processing costs, which include conducting personal interviews* for visitors from countries like China, and much of East Asia, with the exception of Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, which are the highest income countries/territories in the region. China charges Americans higher fees partly because of traditional Chinese bloody-mindedness and partly because the Foreign Ministry probably sees a lucrative source of funds. Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia all face the same American visa fees, but Indonesia merely charges Americans $20 per entry (vs the $50 China charges Americans), while Malaysia and Thailand offer Americans visa-free entry.

    * Overstaying tourist visas in more affluent countries, ranging from places like Thailand to Japan in the Far East, to the West, is a major problem, which is why none of these countries offer Chinese citizens visa-free entry, but generally roll out the red carpet to American nationals.

  • Note that the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s imperiousness/greed/bloody-mindedness does the Chinese travel industry and economy no favors. At $50 per entry, this means that the odds of Americans in the Far East making frequent weekend excursions into China are slim to none. An American expat in Hong Kong who might otherwise travel into Shenzhen, on a whim, to shop and sightsee, has to think of the $50 he would have to shell out just for the privilege of a perfunctory sticker and rubber stamp at the Chinese consulate.