24 December 2009

Superiority Complex

I was reading this forum the other day about how Argentina decided to implement a reciprocity fee to its visitors. Let me explain what this is first.

If you are visiting Argentina, depending on your citizenship, you may or may not need a visa. Also, if you do not need a visa, you may or may not need to pay a reciprocity fee. Given that I have Filipino citizenship, I need a visa to visit Argentina. That means that I need to visit an Argentine embassy, pay the visa fee, and apply for one. I may be granted or denied a visa.

On the other hand, if I were an EU citizen, say, I were a Spaniard, I do not need a visa. I can just buy a plane ticket and head to Buenos Aires. I also will not pay a reciprocity fee, since Spain doesn't charge Argentinians a visa fee either. Argentinians can freely visit Spain as well.

Finally, if I were an American, then I do not need a visa to visit Argentina, but if I decide to fly to Buenos Aires, I have to pay 131.00 USD in order to enter the country. This is the reciprocity fee, since the United States charges Argentinians the same amount to apply for a visa. The difference is that there is no guarantee that the visa will be granted or denied, but the reciprocity fee is charged visitors to Argentina without question, in other words, there isn't a denial, unless one really looks like a threat to the country.

Now, back to the forum. Of course, there were several opinions for and against this. Now, surprise surprise, the people who were against this reciprocity fee are none other than Americans. They think that this fee is idiotic and crappy. But is it really the case? Or do Americans simply think that they have the right of way in every aspect of world affairs?

Argentina isn't the only country to do this. Chile does this as well. Chileans need a visa to visit the United States, but US citizens don't need a visa to visit Chile. But Chile also charges 131.00 USD for US citizens when they enter the country.

According to the Americans, this will deter tourists to Argentina. Wow. As if Americans are the only tourists coming into the country. I also get the impression that Americans seem to think that they have to have the right of way in every aspect of world affairs. They also say that the United States has every right to have a visa system targeting Argentinians because Argentinians are more likely to enter the United States and stay there illegally than US citizens entering Argentina and staying there illegally. But is that a valid argument? What happened to national sovereignty?

If Argentinians decide to implement a reciprocity fee, then respect that by all means. If you hate the fee, then don't go to Argentina. It's the same principle of respect that I voiced regarding the issue of the minaret ban in Switzerland. I find it arrogant that certain people feel that they can insist on other nationalities and coerce them into doing something that would violate the national interests of others.

If American tourists hate the reciprocity fee of Argentina, then just boycott the country. But Argentinians have every right to implement that law since it's their country after all. Argentina may have some use for the revenue that will be generated from that fee anyway. And besides, if you're a traveler, you obviously had the ability to buy a ticket to Argentina, so 131.00 USD is a small amount compared to the total amount of the trip that you have paid for already.

I find it funny that as amazing as this country I currently live in might be, there are things that I find absurd and unintelligible. It's the same mentality with respect to nuclear power: Iran and North Korea they say have no right to bear nuclear arms but they have their arsenals stacked with tons of nuclear weapons. That's one heck of a superiority complex right there.

(Totem Pole, from my Hirschhorn Museum Series)


  1. When I applied for Argentinean visa as a Filipino citizen, I did what I was told to do: get police clearance from NYPD, pay the visa fee and be interviewed by a consular official. It was a hassle but I accepted it because those are their rules. I don't see why Americans can't accept paying a fee just like anyone else? (and I'm already an American he-he-he).

    I just want to say a very blessed Christmas to you and your family!

  2. TNP,

    My exact point. Argentinians have all the right in the world to implement that rule if they wanted to. It's the Americans who get all prissy and complain about it when things do not go their way. It's fine to complain, but if you still want to go to Argentina, suck it up and pay. That's the rules. After all, foreigners who want to go to the United States still line up and get interviewed for a visa application, and who says that it is not a difficult process?

  3. A lot of "Westerners" (to use the Chinese term) just don't realize how lucky they are to travel hassle free.

    When I applied for a Chinese visa last year, I just couldn't believe people's attitude. They just yell at the clerk, basically demanding special treatment and complaining non-stop about the fact that it took a few days for the visa to be processed. Give me a break. They have no idea how hard it is for Chinese people to travel abroad... and no, this is not the Chinese government's fault!

    As a backpacker, obviously I wouldn't like to pay fees to enter a country. But that's life... French don't need a visa for Brazil but Canadians do and Feng had to pay almost CA$100. Brazilians have to pay that too to come to Canada, it's just the way it is.

    At least, most of time, "Westerners" visas are processed without much hassle.

    Plus, to go to the USA is the biggest hassle in the world right now. Even countries belonging to the visa waiver program (i.e. Western Europe countries) must fill in an electronic visa authorization, be questioned endlessly etc. Give me a break!!!

    (Lucky me with two passports :-))

  4. Zhu,

    I agree. Biggest hassle? Just look at what happened a couple of days ago. Now we have a knee-jerk reaction consisting of additional security screening, restriction on movement one hour before landing, among others. I am seriously considering moving somewhere out of the USA now.