Nigeria: That Ban on U.S. Immigrant Visa

A Nigerian passport.
9 February 2020

Ten days ago on Friday, January 31, the Trump administration added Nigeria to the list of countries whose citizens are affected by an immigration ban to the US. Citizens of African countries Nigeria, Eritrea, Tanzania and Sudan, as well as those of Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar, will have seriously restricted access to US immigrant visas, though the ban does not affect visas for official, business or student travel. Exceptions could also be made for immigrants "who have helped the US."The US Department of Homeland Security said the travel ban is vital to national security and ensures countries meet US security needs by requiring a certain level of identity management and information sharing requirements.

The so-called "Muslim ban" has been one of the controversial, signature policies of the Trump Administration. In early 2017 he slammed the travel ban on citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea. The first five are Muslim-majority nations while the other two have regimes opposed by the US. Of the six recently added nations, only Sudan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country while Muslims are estimated to be about half of Nigeria's population.

Unlike the original travel ban of 2017, the new restrictions only apply to certain categories of immigration visa applicants. All immigrants from Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria will be banned from the US while only green card lotteries will be restricted from Sudan and Tanzania. Also affected by the restriction are Nigerian women who go to the US to deliver babies, who would then become eligible to own American passports. An estimated 8,000 Nigerians emigrated to the US in 2018 and thousands of others were hoping to join them, before this latest US action. There are an estimated 400,000 Nigerians living in the US, and they remit about $23 billion home every year.

The Buhari Administration responded to the measure by establishing a committee to "study and address" the US immigration ban. It is chaired by Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola. On the face of it, there are many things that the committee can recommend. Since the US immigration ban was described as temporary and was predicated upon poor identity management and information sharing, this country could step up efforts to improve identity management. This is however no mean task because it involves improving identity management and rooting out corruption at all levels including birth certificates, school documents, hospital reports, work places, marriage certificates and documents emanating from the security agencies.

Truth however is that the Trump Administration's action is riddled with contradictions and its real reasons are different from the officially stated ones. As one American writer pointed out, terrorists are more likely to enter the US on visitor's visas, not immigrant ones which are more difficult and take much longer to obtain. Even though Nigeria has a vibrant local terrorist network, Boko Haram has neither the capacity nor the inclination to export terrorism beyond our immediate neighbours.

An American writer stated that "The travel ban on Nigeria is a cheap, cynical ploy intended to curry favor with the anti-immigrant, anti-black and anti-Muslim segments of the electorate before the upcoming elections."In which case, we cannot do anything about it at least until after the US presidential election in November.

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