In a release dated January 31, 2020, the United States announced it has placed Nigeria and five other countries on a Travel/Visa Restriction, a move that prompted President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday to set up a committee that would seek to reverse the ban.
The US said it has suspended the issuance of visas that would allow citizens of Myanmar, Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria reside permanently in the country, citing non-compliance with international security standards among other things.
Temporary visas for tourists, business people, students and workers from these countries will not be affected. Similarly, Special Immigrants whose eligibility is based on having provided assistance to the United States Government are exempted from the immigration policy.
The US travel/visa restriction will be telling on Nigeria which had 7,922 Immigrant Visas Issued at US Foreign Service Posts in 2018, the second-highest issuance among African countries.
According to US-based think-tank Migration Policy Institute (MPI), about 376,000 Nigerian immigrants and their children (first and second generation) live in the US, based on a survey between 2009 and 2013. Pew Research estimated as many as 327,000 Nigerians live in US as of 2015, the highest among African countries.
With familial ties threatened, and Nigeria’s international status in a bad light, the presidential committee chaired by Rauf Aregbesola, minister of interior, must address a number of concerns that could see the immigration visa ban lifted since, according to the US, “restrictions are not permanent if a country commits to change”.
Nigeria made the list because it failed to meet the US Identity-Management Information and Information sharing threshold, two categories out of three outlined by President Donald Trump’s administration.
The activities of Boko Haram, ISWAP and other terrorist groups in Nigeria earned the country, along with six other countries, a place on a Special Watch List (SWL) for religious freedom violation, US States Department said in December 2019.
Going forward, Nigeria has to “adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, which is necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the United States”.
According to the US, issuances of modern electronic identity system will improve Nigeria’s status and reduce the relatively high risk of terrorist travel from Nigeria to the United States.
Nigeria will also have to report loss or theft of nationals’ passports to INTERPOL or the US as well as share – or be willing to share – other identity information to US on-demand so it “can be used to validate the identity of the passport holder”.
Nigeria would also have to improve information sharing on suspected terrorists with the US and enable the latter proactively to identify criminal characters before they enter the US.
This condition comes amid complaints by the US that its Department of State assistance to Nigeria to modernise its border management capabilities has not yet resulted in sufficient improvements in Nigeria’s information sharing with the US for border and immigration screening and vetting.