Author: Joyce

The New Visa Fee: A New Way to Get a Reporter in Vietnam

The New Visa Fee: A New Way to Get a Reporter in Vietnam

Listen on the go: Four Days investigation, narrated by Kevin Donovan, who spent several years as a correspondent for the New York Times in Vietnam.

A reporter in Vietnam has a problem. He is not with a local media outlet in the country, he is with the New York Times. The problem? He can’t get a visa.

It’s a familiar story for nearly any news professional who has crossed the Pacific in recent decades. The U.S. Department of State, which issues visas, is in the business of granting these permits (which is what it means when it’s called the “Bureau of Consular Affairs”).

But as the times have changed with new technology, visa applications are increasingly complex and bureaucratic.

For example, a reporter who wants to report from Vietnam must now file an application form with the State Department in Washington, D.C. (A reporter for the New York Times has to file that same form there, too.)

In addition to a basic form, which the State Department is required to “verify” — to check that information exists, have it correct, and so on — reporters are required to fill out an additional form, known as an “aircraft operator certificate,” or AOC, that is unique to each of five types of airplanes. Each of these aircraft operators, in turn, must file multiple applications for different airplanes in Vietnam to obtain a single visa.

In addition to making every application a time-consuming, bureaucratic endeavor, the State Department also processes almost 431,000 visas a year.

To make matters even more complicated, as of February 1, the same Department of State that provides a free-market service (by getting to know you, and checking your background, and making sure you’re eligible) now has a new “processing fee” of $60. The Department’s website now says, “If you use our services, you are responsible for paying any government fees that may apply.” (The fee does not affect travelers who obtain a visa using other means, such as through a diplomatic or commercial visa. It also does not affect the current processing rate. The State Department does not

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