Difficult Road Ahead for Nigerian B1/B2 Visa Applicants as Trump Moves to Add Nigeria to Travel Ban List, According to U.S media reports, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration might not place full visa bans on these countries as the restriction may be limited to certain types of visas like the business or visitor visa popularly referred to as B1/B2 visa type.
Nearly 6.4 million people came to the United States on a B visa in 2017. This common visa type—B-1, for business travel; B-2, for tourism; or the combo B-1/B-2, for a bit of both—is issued for short-term travel to the US. If you plan to attend business meetings or conferences, spend a week on vacation in Hawaii or Florida, or visit family in the US, this is the visa you’re likely to need.
According to reports Some countries will face bans only on some visa categories, the Wall Street Journal reported. The list of countries was not final and could yet change, website Politico said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview with the Journal that he was considering adding countries to the travel ban, but declined to state which ones. Politico said an announcement was expected as early as Monday.
The move is likely to sour ties between the United States and the countries affected under the expanded ban.
Nigeria, for example, Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, is a U.S. anti-terrorism partner and has a large diaspora residing in the United States.
Naija247news recalled that Nigeria accounted for over 25% of non-immigrant visas issued to Africans in 2018 alone—but that may be set to change.
The United States embassy has announced an immediate indefinite suspension of interview waivers for visa renewals for applicants in Nigeria. Known as “drop-box,” the interview waiver process allowed Nigerian applicants who met certain eligibility criteria to renew their visas by submitting their passports and supporting documents for review without going through a new in-person interview each time.
The process mainly targeted regular visitors to the US who have a history of applying for and receiving visas. One of the requirements for the interview waiver was for an applicant to have previously received a two-year visa.
With the new waiver suspension, all applicants—first time and recurring—will now be required to appear for in-person interviews at US embassies in Nigeria.
A likely consequence could be a drop-off in the number of non-immigrant visas issued to Nigerians. Compared to the drop-box process which resulted in a high rate of visa renewals for regular visitors, in-person interviews will likely result in increased scrutiny, a much longer process and, by extension, fewer visas issued.
There have already been local reports of visa drop-box submissions taking much longer to process over the past year, hinting at increasing scrutiny. Increasingly, drop-box applications have also been returned unapproved with requests for in-person interviews.
The possibility of a tougher outlook for applicants is noted in the US embassy’s statement as it says one of the reasons it has suspended the interview waiver is to “promote legitimate travel.” It’s rhetoric that is consistent with the Trump administration’s stance on immigration.
The suspension also comes one month after news that Trump administration has been considering new immigration measures to impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens have a track record of overstaying beyond the validity of their short-term US visas. Nigeria accounted for the third highest number of US visa overstays last year.
The proposed measures included reducing visa validity periods, making it tougher for citizens from countries like Nigeria to receive visas at all and the long-term possibility of outright bans.
The Reciprocity Fees Dilemma
Naija247news recalled that The Trump administration has imposed a “reciprocity” fee for all approved non-immigrant visa applications by Nigerians. The fee will be charged in addition to visa application fees (usually paid at the start of the application process) for only applicants who are issued visas. The additional reciprocity fees range from $80 to $303 depending on the class of visa. According to the US embassy, the majority of Nigerian applicants currently pay between $160 to $265 for US visitor visas. The new fee regime will take effect from Aug. 29.
The US Embassy in Nigeria says the reciprocity fees are in response to unsuccessful talks with Nigeria’s government to adjust the fees it charges American applicants given “the total cost for a US citizen to obtain a visa to Nigeria is currently higher than the total cost for a Nigerian to obtain a comparable visa to the United States.” As such, the reciprocity fee “is meant to eliminate that cost difference,” as required by US laws.
The push for stricter visa reciprocity terms first came back in 2017 as part of president Trump’s infamous “Muslim ban” executive order. While the entry bans to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries were subject to intense scrutiny and criticism, the executive order also charged the secretary of State to “review all non-immigrant visa reciprocity agreements” particularly with respect to validity periods and application fees.
“If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking non-immigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable,” the executive order read.
The new reciprocity fee is the latest in a string of moves by the Trump administration which targets Nigerians and other Africans which are having an on-ground effect of cultivating fake news and fear.
After reportedly considering visa clampdown measures including issuing visas for shorter validity periods for countries whose nationals have high rates of overstaying visas (Nigerians were the highest ranked African country for US visa overstays in 2018), the US indefinitely suspended its interview waiver process for visa renewals for Nigerian applicants in May.