The United States on Thursday said it would no longer issue temporary visitor visas to pregnant women seeking to enter the country for so-called “birth tourism.”
In announcing the rule change, which takes effect Friday, the White House said foreigners were using the visas “to secure automatic and permanent American citizenship for their children by giving birth on American soil.”
“The integrity of American citizenship must be protected,” it said in a statement.
Calling the practice “a glaring immigration loophole,” the White House argued the crackdown on “birth tourism” was for public safety and national security as well as immigration control.
“The birth tourism industry threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and is rife with criminal activity, as reflected in federal prosecution.”
The US constitution guarantees automatic American citizenship to anyone born on US soil.
US President Donald Trump has made restricting immigration a top priority of his administration and has threatened in the past to abolish birthright citizenship.
Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday he has been informed by UN chief Antonio Guterres that Washington has denied him a visa for a trip to UN headquarters in New York.
“What we know is that the US State Secretary (Mike Pompeo), in a call to the Secretary General of the United Nations, said: ‘We did not have time to issue a visa for Mohammad Javad Zarif and we will not issue a visa’,” Zarif said.
“The Secretary General responded by saying that it is Iran’s right to take part in this session,” Tehran’s top diplomat said, quoted by semi-official news agency ISNA.
So far there has been no official confirmation from Washington that it has rejected Zarif’s visa application.
Zarif was speaking to reporters in Tehran at a gathering to promote an Iranian peace plan for the Gulf.
His remarks came as Iran held funeral processions on Tuesday for one of its top military commanders killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.
Zarif later took to Twitter, saying the rejection violated the terms of a 1947 agreement on the travel of representatives of UN members to and from the headquarters.
But he said “denying me a visa… pales in comparison to” US sanctions and threats, as well as the “cowardly assassination” of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week.
“What are they really afraid of? Truth?” he tweeted.
Soleimani’s killing in the US strike Friday in Baghdad has sparked a war of words between the arch-foes, with Iran vowing “severe revenge” and US President Donald Trump threatening to hit back hard for any retaliation.
Trump warned on Saturday that Washington had lined up 52 targets if Tehran attacked US personnel or assets.
Zarif said the US visa decision was “a sign of the bankruptcy of the US government and Trump’s regime”, according to ISNA.
The Iranian foreign minister said he had been planning to go to UN headquarters on Thursday for an open debate on “Upholding the Charter of the United Nations”.
But he added that he had also intended to “raise America’s crimes” during his visit to New York.
It is not the first time that Iranian officials have encountered problems when travelling to New York for events at UN headquarters.
In December, the UN General Assembly called on the United States to lift restrictions on Iranian diplomats.
Since mid-2019, Iranian diplomats and ministers have been under strict movement restrictions when they are in the United States.
They are limited largely to the area around UN headquarters, the Iranian diplomatic mission and the ambassador’s residence.
In September, while taking part in the annual General Assembly, Zarif complained he was unable to visit the country’s UN ambassador in a US hospital.
Nigeria and Vietnam have signed agreement on waiver of visa requirements for holders of valid diplomatic and official passports in both countries.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr Vuong Dinh Hue, witnessed the signing and exchange of Memorandum of Understanding during a meeting on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, signed on behalf of Nigeria while his counterpart, the Vietnamese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Nguyen Minh Vu, signed on behalf of his government.
Both countries also agreed on the establishment of a joint commission on trade and strengthening bilateral ties, as well as to increase cooperation in the areas of agriculture, tourism, defence and security, among others.
They also agreed to explore other areas that would further strengthen existing platforms in order to boost economic ties between the two countries.
Professor Osinbajo, who received the Vietnamese delegation, noted that Nigeria and Vietnam established diplomatic relations in 1976.
He added that the impressive development strides recorded by Vietnam over the years have been a source of encouragement to Nigeria.
“We’ve been very keen watchers of your development, especially in the areas of agriculture, trade, services, industry, and I must say the impressive growth of Vietnam has always been a source of encouragement here for us in Nigeria,” the Vice President was quoted as saying in a statement by his spokesperson, Mr Laolu Akande.
He added, “We have also been active in several areas, especially in agriculture, oil and gas, innovation and technology.
“I think there is a lot of room for cooperation and collaboration, especially with respect to economy, commerce, but also in the areas of defence and security.
“Also, in areas of energy and mining, we believe there is a lot we can learn from each other and share. We have a very lucrative mining sector and considerable solid minerals and other mineral sources that we think might be of interest to Vietnam.”
Professor Osinbajo, therefore, called on Vietnam to be more open to Nigerian exports and businesses, stressing that the country’s business climate has improved over the years.
According to him, the government has worked very hard on improving the business environment in Nigeria to make it friendlier for business and tourism.
He recalled that the World Bank named Nigeria one of the top 10 most improved economies in 2020 Doing Business Index.
“I’m sure that with the signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement, and some of what we are doing, especially in financial services, we are also looking at expanding our scope, especially in Africa. We will be looking at cooperation with the ASEAN countries as well.
“We are grateful for the offer from His Excellency (Deputy PM) about the possible links Vietnam could help us establish with the ASEAN countries. We are also ready to collaborate in whatever way we can to facilitate the relationships between Vietnam, ECOWAS and the African Union (AU),” the Vice President told his visitors.
He gave assurance that the Nigerian government would look into the issues raised by Vietnam in terms of its rice imports into the country and other issues and ‘respond appropriately.’
Earlier in his remarks, the Deputy PM who is visiting Nigeria for the first time noted that that country is one of Vietnam’s largest trading partners and would welcome more investment and economic collaboration between both countries.
“Vietnam appreciates the tremendous successes that the government and the people of Nigeria have recorded in recent times in the construction and development process of the country, which has put Nigeria in a leading position in the West African region, and on the continent.
“I believe we should work faster and together to compensate for the long time passed that our two countries missed. A multifaceted cooperation shall be intensified with time,” Hue said.
A friendly football match between Nigeria and Vietnam to strengthen bilateral ties was also proposed by the Vietnamese Deputy PM, which the Vice President warmly welcomed.
Following successful conclusion of the 9th Bi-National Commission of South Africa and Nigeria meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, which was elevated to the level of heads of state, both countries have agreed on issuing 10-year visas to businessmen, academics and frequent travelers.
The agreement was reached in a meeting co-chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, which was the first time both presidents will preside since the Bi-National Commission was elevated.
The decision was taken to encourage more people-to-people contacts among citizens of both countries and further strengthen socio-cultural, economic and political relations.
At the meeting held at the Union Buildings, Presidential Palace of South Africa, the two presidents agreed on early warning signals to nip violence in the bud before it escalates, while taking into consideration the need to share more intelligence and promote stronger partnership in security.
Both countries also agreed to re-establish the consular forum, which is a structured arrangement where both governments meet regularly, at least twice in a year, to discuss welfare of citizens.
Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, signed the minutes of the 9th session of Bi-National Commission.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be cancelled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organisations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behaviour,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure”.
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear programme.
South Africa’s minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi has said that Nigeria, China and India are still being considered before granted the visa-free regime due to their population.
The Minister who spoke on GCIS Radio stated that the government plans to increase the staff in the three countries in a bid to make Visa issuance process faster, as he announced that seven countries have been added to the 75 listed under the free regime to South Africa.
“Many people have complained about not given easy access to South Africa because they have to apply for a VISA where a lot of documents are required from them.
“Out of 193 countries under United Nations, 75 have been granted free visa regime to South Africa for up to 90 days; of these, 16 are in our continent and are SADC members and 59 are from all over the world.
“That’s not enough, seven extra countries have been added; Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Cuba, Sao Tome and Principe and Ghana.
“There are three countries in this world whose combined population makes up to 30% of the world, China, India and Nigeria, and we are doing our homework there. We will increase the staff in those countries that process visas to make sure that Visas are issued urgently.”
He explained that the country’s new e-Visa system which will launch on November 2019 and will make the whole process faster.
“The President in his state of the nation address, announced a world-class visa regime, meaning those countries where Visas are still applicable before they come to SA, he means the E-Visa we are testing where you don’t need to go to the home affairs, and you apply online and get approval online, whatever part of the world.
“Once you get an email, you can show them at the airport and get on a plane to South Africa.”
The United States has suspended interview waivers for renewals, otherwise known as the “Dropbox” process, in Nigeria indefinitely.
The U.S. Mission to Nigeria disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday.
It explained that the suspension would take effect immediately at the close of business today, stressing that it would no longer accept visa applications by DHL in Nigeria.
The mission, however, gave assurance that those who have already submitted their passports to DHL for processing via “Dropbox” at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and the Consulate General in Lagos would not be affected by the development.
It added that the processing of diplomatic and official (A, G, and NATO class) visa applications was not also affected.
The new procedure, according to the mission, is that non-immigrant visa applicants in Nigeria must apply online and appear in-person at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or U.S. Consulate General in Lagos to submit their application for review.
Read the statement below:
Effective at the close of business today, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, the U.S. Mission to Nigeria is indefinitely suspending interview waivers for renewals, otherwise known as the “Dropbox” process.
Visa applications will no longer be accepted by DHL in Nigeria. Those who have already submitted their passports via “Dropbox” to DHL for processing either at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the Consulate General in Lagos, will not be impacted by this change.
All applicants in Nigeria seeking a nonimmigrant visa to the United States must apply online, and will be required to appear in-person at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or U.S. Consulate General in Lagos to submit their application for review.
Applicants must appear at the location they specified when applying for the visa renewal.
Processing of diplomatic and official (A, G, and NATO class) visa applications will continue unchanged.
Mission Nigeria’s processing procedures are regularly reviewed in order to assess our ability to quickly, efficiently, and securely process visa applications.
The U.S. Mission is taking this step to provide more efficient customer service and promote legitimate travel and will continue to facilitate applications of established travelers to the best of its ability.
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has migrated to a web-based Visa-on-Arrival application platform.
Prior to the development, applicants for Visa-on-Arrival were required to forward applications via a dedicated email address or hard copy to the Comptroller General for approval.
But with the web-based regime taking effect from May 13, applicants are only required to log on to the NIS website, where they can apply for the facility, make payments and receive approvals online.
“It is fully automated and user-friendly,” the NIS said via Twitter on Tuesday.
It further stated that the Comptroller General the service, Muhammad Babandede, MFR called on genuine investors to take advantage of the innovation as it will improve migration as well as transparency in the system in line with Federal Government’s policy on Ease of Doing Business.
The United States Embassy in Nigeria has reacted to the outcry over the rate at which applicants are being denied visa in the country.
In separate posts on its Twitter and Facebook handles on Monday, the embassy explained that it consular officers do not gain anything by denying those seeking to travel to the US visa.
It, however, appealed to Nigerians to join its visa officers live on Facebook on Wednesday to know why they were denied visa as a result of “commonly misunderstood questions” in the course of their applications.
The Twitter post read, “Contrary to popular opinion, Consular Officers do not enjoy refusing anyone a visa. Proof: Join us on Facebook for demonstrations on how to complete the DS 160 correctly. April 17 | 2:00pm #AskTheConsul.”
The Facebook post also read “Contrary to popular opinion, Visa Officers do not enjoy handing anyone the 214b refusal letter. Proof: Visa Officers will be live on Facebook to talk about some of the commonly misunderstood questions on the DS 160 and help you improve your next application.
“Join us on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 2:00pm and #AskTheConsul your questions.”
But the explanation by the embassy has triggered various reactions from visa applicants on both Twitter and Facebook.
Most of them criticised the embassy and narrated their experience when they went for an interview.
Read some tweets below:
Dear Sir/Ma, I successfully completed the DS160 form. Was invited by UN in New York. I have a good job(been working for 10years) and good travel history. The consular asked me if am married, I said No. He said I do not qualify for a Visa.
I went for interview few days ago, after an hour of waiting and over 200 plus applicants , only 5 applicants visa was granted , mine also was refused and my propose of applying if because I want to attend a year program at @NYFA. So I believe the consular enjoy refusing a visa
After using our visa fee to drink coffee, the next action is to be dishing out blue paper with passion. U see smiles on their faces. Just a question & that’s why don’t u state reasons for visa denial,instead,u keep referring someone to the blue generic paper u gladly dish out?
I don’t trust ur https://t.co/SWnj6yEwoc consular intentionally deny Nigerian Visa.And its going out of hand.Out of 100 Nigerians that apply they will only give 5-10…….making others to loose their precious 65k.
Adaobi Emmanuella Njoku Contrary to what you just posted, I think and believe they actually do enjoy it because they act like they know it all and still end up giving visas to people without genuine intentions. I can’t wait for Wednesday to come because I have already prepared my questions down. They will explain to me how it is possible to deny one visa three times with three different reasons at different times when the form was filled exactly the same and for the same purpose. For a medical trip to help save ones child. I can’t wait for Wednesday.
Kelechi Okoh I have a great job, my husband, 2 kids, properties you still denied me visa for child birth because I do not have strong ties. Really! I can never leave my family for anything. Am alive and keep working because of them. I was shocked at the consular officer. She did not even look at any of my documents.
Adebayo Lastborn Adebola Even when you answer all questions, they will still deny you visa
Ogbeni Samuel Adeleke Adejimi Thanks for giving us the opportunity to ask questions relating to common mistakes that led to visa denial based on DS 160 form. I’ve had 5 different experience. Will surely join the consular officer by 2pm on Wednesday to ask my questions.
Akufai Valentine Jonah Had a terrible experience in 2013. I got scholarship to attend a conference in Denver but was denied visa. I was not angry because i was denied visa, I was angry in the manner of the disrespect from the consular officer. Imagine giving one that refusal letter and you are told off you go without any tangible explanation, after reading the letter, it states that i don’t have strong ties to my country either through being married, niether do i have a job and back then i use to work with an NGO and it was clearly stated in my application, i have forgotten the third excuse. I just laughed and left, I know people who are single then and are still single today that have gotten US visa, i know people who have no job but have gotten US visa, i know people who had zero travel experience but yet were granted US visa. Since that episode i have never ever applied for a U S visa because i don’t have any business there for now. Me, I would never get marry because i want to secure a US visa, Who sets the rule on what is “Strong ties”? Just a way to allow someone play “God”. For me, you get US visa base on which side of the bed the consular officer interviewing you wakes up from.
Eunice Erusiafe My son was denied 3 times without any reason, he is going 4 a open heart surgery,(congenital heart defect )d boy is going tru a lot of pains right now I pray God sends help 2 us.
Ufoeze Oge Uc To think I stood before a staff and the first thing he asked me was What does your husband do? I answered “Sir am not married” the next thing I heard was sorry ma you are not qualified for this visa. So it’s now a must to be married.
When people are sincere they are denied, I can’t lie because I want to go to another man’s land. Anyway na me find them go. Till Wednesday afternoon.
Bayo Akintunde #AskTheConsul This will be a very interesting session. To understand what drives visa officers decisions despite glaring evidences.
Adebiyi Oduyoye You should return the visa fee when you deny an applicant.
Akande Ademola Why then do you guys have delight in reject people even though their documents are genuine and their traveling intent is true
Mustapha Afinni I don’t need your visa even, if it’s free”
Kuti Oluwafuntan Abiola In a situation whr ds-160 was filled correctly buh b4 u answered the question bn asked by d consular,d refusal form is already in her hand…
Zanni Waherb Why not return the visa Fee after denying an applicant instead you chop d money and tell them to apply again😏😏😏like you did for me 2yrs ago.
Rapper 21 Savage, who has long said he is from the US state of Georgia, was detained on Sunday by US immigration officers who say he is actually British and overstayed his visa.
The news sent shockwaves through social media as the Grammy-nominated 26-year-old rapper — whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham Joseph — says he is a local act from Atlanta, the capital of hip hop.
“We are working diligently to get Mr Abraham-Joseph out of detention while we work with the authorities to clear up any misunderstandings,” the rapper’s lawyer, Dina LaPolt, said in a statement to AFP.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox told the local Atlanta Journal-Constitution outlet that 21 Savage is an “unlawfully present the United Kingdom national” who entered the United States in 2005 on a visa that expired one year later.
The US agency also told the paper he had been arrested and later convicted for felony drug charges in 2014 — but at the time, ICE was unaware that he was in fact British.
The United States Embassy in Nigeria has announced its decision to shut down operations indefinitely.
In a Facebook post on Monday, the embassy blamed the development on the government shutdown in the US.
“Due to the current U.S. government shutdown, the American Centers located in the Embassy, Abuja and Consulate General, Lagos are unfortunately closed. They will re-open once the U.S. government shutdown is resolved. Sorry for any inconvenience to our valued patrons,” the statement read.
Travellers to the United States will soon have to submit their social media identities, previous telephone numbers and email addresses, a measure that could touch 10 million people per year.
According to a State Department plan published Friday, visa seekers — whether visitors or would-be immigrants — will be presented with a list of social media platforms.
Applicants will be required to identify which they use and provide “any identifiers used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of application.”
“Other questions seek five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travel,” the notice, published in the Federal Register, revealed.
When these new rules were first suggested last year as part of what US President Donald Trump has called “extreme vetting” of would-be visitors, civil liberties groups sounded the alarm about privacy.
But officials say they could identify potential extremists, such as one of the attackers in the December 2015 San Bernadino shooting — who got a visa despite allegedly advocating “jihad” on social media.
The measures apply both to the DS-260 “Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Form” and the DS-160 “Application for Nonimmigrant Visa.”
In the last fiscal year, 559,536 people applied for US immigrant visas and 9,681,913 for various forms of visitor visa. Friday’s announced measures will not touch diplomatic or official travelers.
The announcement begins a 60-day period in which interested bodies and members of the public will be allowed to submit comments on the rule changes, which are expected to be approved on May 29.