Nigerian government reacts to US visa restrictions

The Nigerian government has officially reacted to the Trump administration’s decision to add the country to the latest list of nations to face stringent travel restrictions to the United States.

In a press statement signed by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, the Nigerian government clarified that the measure “is the suspension of the issuance of immigrant visas to Nigerian passport holders only” and does not apply to other US visas such as those for official, business, tourism and student travel.

The clarification became necessary as there had been deliberate misrepresentations of the American sanction in the social media, portraying it as a total ban on the issuance of visas of all categories to Nigerians.

Moreover, the presidential statement explained the reason for the American action thus: “The DHS [US Department of Homeland Security] states that the suspension of immigrant visas became necessary following a review and update of the methodology (performance metrics) adopted by the US Government to assess compliance of certain security criteria by foreign governments. This resulted in certain enhancements on how information is shared between Nigeria and the US”.

The Buhari administration had therefore taken steps to rectify the situation to maintain “productive relations with the United States and its international allies especially on matters of global security”, the statement assured.

“Accordingly, President Muhammadu Buhari has established a committee, to be chaired by the Hon. Minister of Interior, to study and address the updated US requirements. The committee will work with the US Government, INTERPOL and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented.”

Analysts say that Nigeria and the other countries affected by the visa ban could apply to be taken off the list as soon as they feel they have addressed the US concerns. The acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf had told reporters in Washington on Friday (31 January) that the US would work with the affected countries on bolstering their security requirements to help them get off the list.

In line with the new US policy, which will take effect on 21 February 2020, immigrant visas, issued to those seeking to live permanently in the United States, will be banned for Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan.

The new restrictions, which were announced on 31 January) will also prevent immigrants from Sudan and Tanzania from moving to the US through the diversity visa lottery, which grants green cards to as many as 50,000 people a year.

Persons who fall within the categories affected by the ban will be able to apply for waivers from the restrictions, US officials have said. Waivers would be issued to those who would experience undue hardship if denied entry into the United States, officials say. Critics have described the waiver-granting process as opaque and arbitrary.

In 2018, the US issued more than 8,000 immigration visas to citizens of Nigeria, just over 2,000 to Sudanese, 290 to Tanzanians and just 31 to Eritreans. The US had previously announced a ban on certain types of visas for Eritreans in 2017.

President Trump’s original travel ban was issued earlier in 2017, affecting citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea.

The total number of countries on the restricted US travel list now stands at 13.

Adira Kallo

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