Updated: March 6, 2021
President Donald Trump has included Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, to his infamous list of travel ban, and excluded Belarus.
Citizens from Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan won’t be allowed to apply for visas to immigrate to the United States under the new policy for visas that can lead to permanent residency, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said during a call with reporters on Friday.
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Wolf clarified that the targeted visas are distinct from non-immigrant visas issued to visitors, which will not be impacted by the ban.
The Trump administration said the new policy was designed to tighten security for countries that do not comply with U.S. minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.
The European country of Belarus was dropped from the list of seven countries as previously reported.
The administration said investor visas, which lead to green cards, will also be barred.
But the DHS official said the restrictions will not apply to skilled foreign workers entering the United States on H-1B visas, even though such visas are temporary, but can lead to permanent status in the United States.
He said immigrants already in the United States, or who have approved visas will be exempt from the ban.
However, people with pending visa requests – some of whom have waited years – will be barred.
All applicants will be able to apply for a waiver, a process already in place under Trump’s existing ban. But a federal lawsuit challenging the administration claims the waiver process is opaque and difficult to navigate.
The visa restrictions will not apply to refugees, according to the official. Trump’s administration has separately capped the number of refugees allowed into the United States at 18,000 for the 2020 fiscal year, the lowest level in decades, a report noted.
While American lawmakers have called on Trump not to include Sudan to the travel ban, the Nigerian government began lobbying this week not to also be included to travel ban.
Last week, media reports said Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Belarus were on Mr. Trump’s new travel ban to be unveiled this week.
It is not clear which of the seven countries has been removed from the list, or what type of visas would be banned or restricted, or whether entire countries would be stopped from traveling to the United States or just certain types of people within those countries.
Last week, United States House of Representatives member Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to reconsider adding Sudan to the administration’s travel ban.