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AP Photo/George Osodi
All roads now lead to the US embassy in Lagos, Nigeria.
CLAMPDOWN

The Trump administration just made its first move in a clampdown on US visas for Nigerians

Yomi Kazeem
By Yomi Kazeem

Africa reporter

Nigeria accounted for over 25% of non-immigrant visas issued to Africans in 2018 alone—but that may be set to change.

The United States embassy has announced an immediate indefinite suspension of interview waivers for visa renewals for applicants in Nigeria. Known as “drop-box,” the interview waiver process allowed Nigerian applicants who met certain eligibility criteria to renew their visas by submitting their passports and supporting documents for review without going through a new in-person interview each time.

The process mainly targeted regular visitors to the US who have a history of applying for and receiving visas. One of the requirements for the interview waiver was for an applicant to have previously received a two-year visa.

With the new waiver suspension, all applicants—first time and recurring—will now be required to appear for in-person interviews at US embassies in Nigeria.

A likely consequence could be a drop-off in the number of non-immigrant visas issued to Nigerians. Compared to the drop-box process which resulted in a high rate of visa renewals for regular visitors, in-person interviews will likely result in increased scrutiny, a much longer process and, by extension, fewer visas issued.

There have already been local reports of visa drop-box submissions taking much longer to process over the past year, hinting at increasing scrutiny. Increasingly, drop-box applications have also been returned unapproved with requests for in-person interviews.

The possibility of a tougher outlook for applicants is noted in the US embassy’s statement as it says one of the reasons it has suspended the interview waiver is to “promote legitimate travel.” It’s rhetoric that is consistent with the Trump administration’s stance on immigration.

The suspension also comes one month after news that Trump administration has been considering new immigration measures to impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens have a track record of overstaying beyond the validity of their short-term US visas. Nigeria accounted for the third highest number of US visa overstays last year.

The proposed measures included reducing visa validity periods, making it tougher for citizens from countries like Nigeria to receive visas at all and the long-term possibility of outright bans.

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