Have You Ever Heard of the Visa Reciprocity and Civil Documents Table?

The Visa Reciprocity Table is a document maintained by the U.S. Department of State that includes information on visa fees as well as civil documents that are available from particular countries, and oftentimes how an applicant can go about obtaining the document when applying for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa. The document is extremely thorough in an effort to provide visa applicants and attorneys with accurate information. You can access the Visa Reciprocity Table to see what it looks like.

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What is Visa Reciprocity?

Nonimmigrant visa applicants from certain countries/areas of authority may be required to pay a visa issuance fee after their application is approved. These fees are based on the principle of  reciprocity:  when a foreign government imposes fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose a reciprocal fee on citizens of that country/area of authority for similar types of visas.

Civil Documents

Immigrant visa applicants are required to submit certain civil documents as part of their visa application, such as birth certificates and police records. (Nonimmigrant visa applicants do not routinely need to submit civil documents as part of their visa application.) Each Reciprocity Page provides detailed information about how to obtain these civil documents from the country you have selected, as well as the location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you can apply for your visa.

Purpose of the Visa Reciprocity Table

The table is important for immigration attorneys and their clients alike because it helps to ensure that an applicant for an immigration benefit obtains all of the proper civil documentation before filing his or her case.  The table is organized by country and lists the proper government agency or office that should issue a specific document or certification.  If an applicant does not have the document that conforms with the table, USCIS or the National Visa Center will not accept the document and will consider it invalid for the purpose of obtaining a visa or other immigrant benefit.

A utility of the table is that in certain circumstances it provides information to a visa applicant from a particular country on options to provide secondary evidence of an event, such as birth or marriage, in place of primary evidence. This situation only occurs if the Department of State has determined that evidence of official events was not property recorded or documented by the country at that given time.  This is particular true for events that took place in the midst of a war, civil unrest, or simply because the country in question lacked the infrastructure at time, or the law did not mandate the recording of the event.

Immigration attorneys should reference this table on a regular basis while reviewing their clients’ documents to ensure they are providing all appropriate documentation as required by USCIS or the National Visa Center.  Even so, it is not a perfect system and oftentimes a U.S. agency may still issue a Request for Evidence for a particular document, as the requirement as part of the Visa Reciprocity Table can change with different items being designated as essential in the processing of a visa application.

As a real life example, recently, the table was updated regarding marriage licenses in India.  Previously, the table stated that the official recording of marriages in India was voluntary, per Indian law, and as such, secondary evidence was admissible in proving a legal marriage took place.  However, within the past few weeks, the table has been changed to indicate that under Indian law, registration of marriages is mandatory as of 2006.  This means that any applicant for an immigration benefit who was married in India on or after 2006 MUST provide a marriage license, as Indian law requires them to be obtained.

Understanding the Visa Reciprocity and Civil Document Table is crucial in a successful immigration case.  By following it and ensuring your documents have been sufficiently issued from the property authorities, you are greatly reducing the likelihood of receiving a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny on your case.

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