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My sister was granted a 10-year long visa in 2007 when she was trying to go visit our uncle who lives in the US, we were told at the time that this is almost unheard of especially for children. How unusual is it really? We are all South Africans. She has to reapply for one now if she wants to go visit him again.

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    What visa was she granted ? – happybuddha Aug 17 '17 at 5:32
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It shouldn't be all that unusual, especially for adults. US visas are typically issued on the basis of reciprocity, meaning that the US generally grants visas that last as long as a country grants visas to Americans (of course, Americans don't generally need a visa to visit South Africa for short tourist visits).

You can lookup the reciprocity schedule for South Africa on the US State Department website. It lists a 10-year multiple entry visa for B-1/B-2 visas (note that "fee: none" here simply means an additional visa fee; you still have to pay the normal application fee).

Consular officers are, per 9 FAM 403.9-4(B), "encouraged" to issue visas for the full duration listed in the reciprocity schedule, though they have the discretion to issue visas for a shorter period of time if they believe there's particular reason to do so:

b. (U) Posts Encouraged to Issue Full-Validity Visas: Posts are encouraged to issue full-validity visas. The routine issuance of limited validity visas runs contrary to that policy. Although 22 CFR 41.112(c) gives you the discretion to limit visa validity, this authority should be used very sparingly, preferably under the guidance of an experienced consular manager, in cases where the applicant’s current circumstances meet the requirements for visa issuance but may not continue to do so in the long term.

In short, a 10-year visa for South African citizens should generally be the norm, with some exceptions.

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    Note that this is based on the "theory" of what should happen according to policy. Reality isn't always so easy. Anecdotally, it sounds like 10-year visas for South Africans are common, but I don't have much in the way of personal experience with exactly how common they really are. – Zach Lipton Aug 16 '17 at 9:17
  • Perhaps slightly off topic, do you happen to know if that rule changes for subsequent visas? Say if you need a visa to enter the US, and according to reciprocity rule your country gets 12 months visa. So you apply once, use it, apply second time, use it again, apply third time... Is it always 12 months, or can it grow based on history? – Andrei Aug 16 '17 at 13:43
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It seems very common. Maybe not for children but I always thought it was standard for B1/B2 visas. I personally qualify for the visa waiver programme but those of my friends who applied to visit the US got a 10-year visa on the first try, without any special request or evidence.

But Wikipedia indicates this actually depends on your country of origin, with 10 years being the default for most of South America, Europe and East Asia, and, indeed, South Africa. On the other hand, most of Africa falls into more restrictive categories, which might account for the perception that 10-year visas are rare.

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    @PaulofOsawatomieأبوعمار Still looking for actual stats. I just found a map per country which does suggest it would be very common (especially if you take into account the fact that Mexico, Brazil, India and China each account for a very large number of visas), with Africa being one major exception (which might account for the difference between yours and the OP's experience on the one hand and mine on the other hand). – Relaxed Aug 16 '17 at 9:05
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    @PaulofOsawatomieأبوعمار "being the default for most of South America, Europe and East Asia" covers a large fraction of the world's population. Not necessarily a majority, but more than enough to call "common". In fact, since Relaxed's later comment includes all of India as well as China, probably a majority. – David Richerby Aug 16 '17 at 10:33
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depends on several factors... you normally get at the first time only a 2 years visa, then (if you use the visa) you can apply again and they will grant you another for 10 years....

I know people from south america who got a 1 year visa and never use it, after that getting a visa is hard (they will use that as argument to deny/refuse your application)

for adults is quite easier since the biometry remains almost the same.

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