U.S VISA RESTRICTION ON NIGERIA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.

On August 27, 2019, the U.S government announced a visa reciprocity fee on Nigerians traveling to America. According to the announcement, the officials of the US govt said that an initial move was made to inform the Nigerian government to review the exorbitant visa fees imposed on Americans traveling to Nigeria majorly because the, then, visa fees were comparatively higher than the fees of an equivalent visa obtained by Nigerians heading to America.

However, the Nigerian government made no move as regards the visa fee for 18 months and this prompted the visa reciprocity fee. The new reciprocity fee for Nigerian citizens is meant to eliminate the cost difference caused by the high visa fees imposed on Americans by the Nigerian govt said the U.S officials.


Following the announcement, the Nigerian government announced a reduction in visa fees for Americans. This happened a day after the U.S government announced the reciprocity fee. However, since the Nigerian govt has yielded to the request of the U.S government, though at an overdue time, one would expect that the U.S government cuts the initial reciprocity fee placed on Nigerians but things went south and the fee remained. In a statement issued by the U.S embassy, “The U.S embassy looks forward to receiving official diplomatic communication regarding a new fee schedule for Americans seeking Nigeria visas. Until such time and confirmation of implementations, the reciprocity fees for approved visas to the US will remain in place”


Interestingly, it is known that the call for stricter visa reciprocity fees on Nigeria originated alongside the 2017 “Muslim ban” executive order from the President of the United, which bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. The same executive order that placed 7 countries on entry ban into America back then and that, at the same time, initiated the visa reciprocity fee on Nigerians seeking visas to America was extended and unfortunately, Nigeria made her way to the list. What may appear as a surprise to the public came into limelight on Jan 22, 2020, when the Wall Street Journal reported the plans of the present administration to extend the entry ban to few other countries and Nigeria was listed as being on the pending list.


Then, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, said “Nigerian officials had not been advised that their country would be included in the ban. He continued, “It would be quite unfortunate if for any reason Nigeria were on the list,” Mr. Mohammed said, noting the two government’s cooperation in combating terrorism. “It would a double jeopardy: The country has committed a lot of resources to fight terrorism. Any travel ban cannot but be inimical to the growth of the country.” He added, “Once a travel ban is imposed on a country, the consequences are not always pleasant.”


The verdict was delivered 9 days after the notice to the public and the entry ban was fully passed. According to The New York Times, “The proclamation will take effect on Feb. 22. Immigrants who obtain visas before then will still be able to travel to the United States, officials said. Non-immigrant visas, including those for students and certain temporary workers, as well as visas reserved for potential employees with specialized skills, will not be affected by the ban.” It was said that the extension of the entry ban on Nigeria was due to the inability of Nigeria to meet the US security and information sharing standards according to the Department of Homeland Security and State Department.

Hours after the visa ban, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reacted to the suspension of immigrant visas to Nigerians by the U.S. government. He ordered that a committee be set up to look into the matter of the requirement of the new US policy information sharing standards on visa issuance. Chaired by the minister for interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, the committee will work with the U.S. government, INTERPOL, and other stakeholders to ensure all updates are properly implemented said the Media Aide to the president. The Presidency, however, seems to be less taken-aback by the situation after releasing a statement “that the restriction is the suspension of issuance of immigrant visas to Nigerian passport holders ” and this has cast doubts as to whether the matter was being taken with light hands by the government.


WHAT THE BAN MEANS FOR NIGERIAN STUDENTS PLANNING TO STUDY IN AMERICA.
While the entry ban does not, in fact, affect students directly, it is widely believed that students will have to face stricter rules during visa interviews as experienced by students of countries who had been on the entry ban list. Most often, such students experience rigorous background checks most of which delay several applications for months thus, will have an impact on the number of Nigerian students seeking entry into America and on the U.S. economy.


It’s no news that Nigerian students are redefining excellence in the United States and according to data provided by Rice University in Texas, Nigerian-Americans are the most educated ethnic group in the United States. More than 20% of Nigerian – Americans have graduate degrees. Furthermore, a minimum of four percent of Nigerian – Americans are also Ph.D. holders. This is at least three times higher than any other ethnic group in the United States of America. Nigerian – Americans are also known for their exploits in medicine, science, technology, and literature. More than 75% of black doctors in the USA are Nigerians.
A large percentage of black students at highly selective top universities are immigrants or children of immigrants. Harvard University, for example, has estimated that more than one-third of its black student body consists of recent immigrants or their children, or were of mixed-race parentage. Other top universities, including Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Rice, Duke and Berkeley, report a similar pattern. As a result, there is a question as to whether affirmative action programs adequately reach their original targets: African Americans who are descendants of American slaves and their discriminatory history in the US.


According to the 2016 Open Doors report, the top five U.S. institutions with the largest student population of Nigerian descent (in no particular order) are Texas Southern University, University of Houston, the University of Texas at Arlington, University of North Texas, and Houston Community College.

According to the 2017 report, 11,710 Nigerian immigrants studied in the U.S. in the 2016-17 academic year, the 12th highest country of origin and highest of any African country. 4,239 of these (36%) are pursuing graduate degrees. With the above, it is obvious that the effects of the visa ban may extend well beyond general assertions.


WHAT THE BAN MEANS FOR RELATIONS IN THE U.S.
One major downside of the entry ban is the breaking of family relationships as Nigerians would have a slim chance of visiting their relatives already in the U.S. A man said “Africans have very strong family ties and not allowing people from Nigeria to come into the United States would result in negative consequences for both the U.S and Nigeria”


WHAT THE BAN MEANS FOR THE UNITED STATES.
At this point, it is critical to revisit what and why America is called a “Melting Pot”. America’s former President, John. F. Kennedy examined America’s early history in his book ‘A Nation of Immigrants’ noting that “ What Alexis de Tocqueville saw in America was a society of immigrants most of whom had begun anew and on an equal footing. This was the secret of America; a nation with a fresh memory of old traditions who dared to explore new frontiers”


The recent visa ban is one that shakes the ideals of such founding fathers of America.


“President Trump and his administration’s continued disdain for our nation’s national security and our founding ideals of liberty and justice dishonor our proud immigrant heritage and the diversity that strengthens and enriches our communities,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


In all, it’s been justified that what the administration sees as a threat to national security will not only cause a major retrogression in the economy of the affected countries, especially Nigerian but may as well be a threat to the ideals and honor of the founding fathers of the United States of America. U.S officials reported that the restrictions, which now cover 13 countries, will affect several thousand people.

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