In 3 Years Nigerian Visitors Traveling to United States Drop Due to Trump’s Visa Clampdown Measures

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The travel measures taken against Nigeria by the United States last year are starting to have a clear and, potentially, long-term effect.

Data from the US travel and tourism office shows Nigeria recorded the largest global drop-off in visitors to the US. As of October 2019, 34,000 fewer Nigerians traveled to the US compared to the previous year—a 21% drop. After a sustained period of growth between 2011 and 2015, the number of Nigerian visitors to the US started to plateau in 2016 until the big drop-off last year.

The dip in Nigerian visitors to the US followed a string of visa clampdown measures by the Trump administration targeting Africa’s largest economy.

After indefinitely suspending its visa interview waiver for Nigerian applicants (the waiver allowed frequent travelers renew their visa without going through in-person interviews each time), the Trump administration also raised visa application fees for Nigerians by including additional “reciprocity fees” ranging from $80 to $303 depending on the class of visa. And even though the Nigerian government immediately slashed visa application fees for American applicants in a bid to get the US to reverse its price increase, the reciprocity fees remain in place.

The measures followed reports that the Trump administration was looking to impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens have a track record of overstaying beyond the validity of their short-term US visas. As it turns out, Nigerians were the highest ranked African country for US visa overstays in 2018.

Even though official data confirms the effects of the measures, there were already warning signs the administration’s policies were having an adverse impact on potential travelers. The policies also spawned fear-fueled rumors among locals as well: mid-last year, the United States embassy in Nigeria was forced to deny a widespread rumor that it had placed a ban on issuing student visas to Nigerians.

The tougher overall visa stance by the Trump administration comes at an inopportune time for middle class Nigerians who are increasingly emigrating amid fears of economic uncertainty back home. Nigeria’s once promising economy remains mired in sluggish growth since a 2016 recession while unemployment continues to climb. With many middle class professionals searching for alternatives, the number of Nigerians seeking legal immigration pathways to the US, UK and, increasingly, Canada, has risen sharply over the past half-decade.

But despite the Trump administration’s policies, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, with U.S. foreign direct investment concentrated largely in the petroleum/mining and wholesale trade sectors. At $2.2 billion in 2017, Nigeria is the second largest U.S. export destination in Sub-Saharan Africa. The United States and Nigeria have a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement. In 2017, the two-way trade in goods between the United States and Nigeria totaled over $9 billion. U.S. exports to Nigeria include wheat, vehicles, machinery, kerosene, lubricating oils, jet fuel, civilian aircraft, and plastics. Nigerian exports to the United States included crude oil, cocoa, cashew nuts, and animal feed. Nigeria is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

As US remains a popular destination for Nigerian students seeking foreign degrees as the economic impact of spending by Nigerian students studying in the United States reached $514 million over the past academic year.

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