... As Embassy suspends non-immigrant visa (NIV) operations
The US Embassy in Liberia has been hit by the worsening financial crisis thus forcing it to temporarily withdraw Peace Corps volunteers (PCV) from 12 of the 15 counties.
Although the country's financial crisis is not limited to one particular sector, an embassy spokesperson in Monrovia, has confirmed the pull-out decision affecting the PCV, saying difficulties in "reliably obtaining needed funds from banks up-country, and in Monrovia are affecting the ability of the Peace Corps to sustain volunteers."
Liberia is a low-income country that relies heavily on foreign assistance and remittances from the diaspora, but the system has recently collapsed where the banks are no longer giving out the remittances. The country is richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture. Its principal exports are iron ore, rubber, diamonds, and gold.
Government critics and some of President George Weah's supporters are of the opinion that the withdrawal of the PCV is a blow to the country's education sector, "because the Peace Corps volunteers were assigned to government-run schools, not only in remote areas to teach mainly science courses, but across the country due to the shortage of teachers."
In recent years, the country's economy has deteriorated to the extent that, currently, commercial banks are sparingly disbursing money to depositors.
The crisis has also resulted in lawmakers and civil servants complaining of delays in the payment of their salaries to the extent that civil servants are contemplating 'go-slow,' while some lawmakers have refused to extend the 'special session' by a week in keeping with presidential request.
Liberia was founded in 1847 by freed people of color from the USA, and the Peace Corps has a long history of working in the country, which is trying to rebuild itself after a 14-year civil war (1989-2003).
The U.S. Embassy
In a related development, the United States Embassy said it has temporarily suspended its Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) operations, and limiting its Immigrant Visa services.
"The Embassy is temporarily suspending its non-immigrant visa operations, while we make updates to our operations. This temporary suspension does not reflect a change in U.S. visa policy in Liberia," a US Embassy spokesperson told the Daily Observer via email.
A non-immigrant visa is issued to a person with permanent residence outside the United States, but wishes to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study, as examples.
"Henceforth," according to the Embassy, "previously scheduled NIV appointments have been canceled, but the embassy said it regrets that there are no slots available for rescheduling at the moment for any visa interview.
"For applicants who previously made NIV appointments: We will reschedule all applicants through our online appointment system as soon as possible; you will receive further notification from us at that time.
"For applicants who wish to make new NIV appointments: We will update this page when we are able to schedule new appointments.
"For applicants with genuine emergencies: You may request an NIV expedited visa appointment at http://cdn.ustraveldocs.com/lr/lr-niv-expeditedappointment.asp.
Meanwhile, the Embassy said it will continue to provide American Citizen Services and limited Immigrant Visa services during this period.
"We regret the inconvenience this temporary suspension causes to Liberian applicants," the statement said.
According to the U.S. Department of State website, U.S. embassies and consulates are sometimes forced to limit or at times suspend visa services, because of natural disasters, civil unrest, war and/or security concerns, among other reasons.