There has been a rise in reports of visa denials to many Nigerians who wish to travel to the United States of America for various reasons. Most of the denied applicants include those applying for the business or tourist visa as well as student visas.
Consequently, the National Assembly had to summon the US Ambassador to explain the situation which it deemed unfair. The American Embassy rejected the invitation. Consular Officers at the American Embassy recently held a Facebook live session in a bid to defend the perception of the mission against the prevailing negative sentiment around its wanton denial of visas to Nigerians.
What now? Last week, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the Trump administration is considering broader immigration curbs against nationals from several countries – including Nigerians who constitute a large chunk of visitors who overstay their visa duration.
The Big Story:According to the US Department of State’s Consular Affairs department, Nigerians were the largest group of Africans that were issued the non-immigrant B1/B2 Visas in 2018.
This does not come as a surprise given Nigeria’s status as the most populous African country. If implemented, a broad visa ban against Nigerians will most likely face legal challenges. Nigerians are one of the most successful immigrant groups in America and might perceive the move as discriminatory.
Nonetheless, most Nigerians as a result of the dire economic situation, now tend to overstay their visas or sneak into Canada to claim asylum. This situation has caused the Canadian government to alert the American consular services in Nigeria, advocating more stringent visa approvals. This could partly account for the increased denial of Nigerians, besides President Trump’s hardline immigration position.
According to the WSJ, the US might consider reducing the length of visas or tightening the process, if rates do not fall after the breaching countries have been put on notice. These new polices would also look to tighten processes around student and investors visas.
The Trump administration has been lukewarm towards African immigrants including those from Nigeria. (He once reportedly described African countries as a ‘shithole’). Trump is always on the offensive concerning immigration. He rails against the lax immigration rule that confers citizenship on babies born in America. (Nigerians frequently use this immigration policy to give their kids American passports).
He has also empowered the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be more ruthless in its deportation of illegal immigrants. According to ICE, Nigerians constitute the highest population of Africans removed from America followed by Somalians in 2017.
There is no bright side:During my time at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, consular issues regarding the US were almost unsolvable. Nigerians irrespective of their status in the society were indiscriminately denied visas – including former top government officials. A serving Minister of State for Foreign Affairs once had his passport withheld by the American Embassy. Most American Ambassadors hardly respond to summons, and the Embassy routinely honoured Note Verbales (diplomatic notes) , a deviation from normal diplomatic practices.
Recently, there are now more reports of visa denials to Nigerians who have visited America numerous times. Many dropbox applicants (a non-interview visa renewal category) are being invited for interviews. Things will even get tougher if the new immigration policies being proposed by the White House is enacted.
Bottomline: Visas are a privilege and not a right. However, there are several reports that show a certain disdain for applicants from Nigeria. Many American Consular Officers have rejected legitimate applicants for the flimsiest of reasons including marital status. Most times, those denials cannot be appealed. On one hand, America is obsessed about the expanding influence of China in Nigeria while on the other it is limiting opportunities for Nigerians – many of whom have contributed to America’s global dominance. Nigerians are not entitled to US visas but a blanket ban on people from our country because of a number of visa overstays – the exception than the norm – is quite problematic. The only solution is for the Democrats and liberal Americans to challenge this measure in congress and in the courts.