U.S. Travel Restrictions for Immigrants from Nigeria and Five other Nations

Published on: Feb 06, 2020, Last Edited: Feb 06, 2020 | Tags: USA Visa Restrictions, USA Visa Requirements

Introduction

At the end of January 2020, President Trump announced he was restricting immigration from six new countries including Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), these countries have been added to the list of nations already subject to the existing travel ban because they were not complying with information sharing and the new, more stringent security measures required by the US. The existing travel ban, Executive Order 13769, that originally put forward in 2017 was implemented in 2018 and restricted U.S. travel for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

The new restrictions will come into effect on February 22, 2020. The DHS states that the ruling will not be permanent as long as the countries involved commit to making changes in their security arrangements. Sudan and Tanzania are also facing additional restrictions, as they have now been suspended from the diversity visa program, the “green card lottery”. However, the new ruling will have more impact on Nigeria than any other country. In 2018, the United States issued more than 800 visas to Nigerian citizens, more than twice the total of all the other countries on the list put together.

Why has Nigeria been added to the list?

Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa with a well-educated population and is home to the continent’s leading technological sector. While the new restrictions do not comprise a total ban on travel, applications from Nigerian citizens for US immigrant visas have been suspended so it will affect people seeking to reside permanently in the United States. The new restrictions will not apply to temporary visas for travel for business, tourism or medical purposes.

Around 45% of Nigerians are Muslims and the nation has had terrorism issues with the Boko Haram group, particularly in the NE of the country. The country is the United States’ second-largest trading partner in Africa and the US is Nigeria’s largest investor. Reducing immigration from Nigeria to the US could have a significant impact on the economic relationship between the countries, especially in the tech sector.

US officials justified the restrictions on travel by pointing to an elevated level of risk in the country. However, before the announcement, Washington had stated that Nigeria and Tanzania were going to be added to the travel restriction list because of the significant numbers of people from those countries entering the US on a visa who ended up overstaying illegally.

Earlier this week, the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that Nigeria had not been informed that the country was going to be added to the restricted travel list. He pointed to the cooperation between the two countries in fighting terrorism and voiced his fears that imposing a travel ban might result in undesirable consequences.

A threat to businesses

The commercial relationship between Nigeria and the US is increasingly focussed on tech. The country is rapidly becoming the number one African country for start-ups, venture capital investment and an entry for companies from Silicon Valley. The majority of this investment is coming from the US and American tech companies have chosen Nigeria as their gateway for expanding across the continent. There are numerous examples of this new economic relationship, including:

  • Mastercard’s $50m investment in Jumia, a pan African eCommerce business with its HQ in Nigeria.
  • Goldman Sachs’ $20m investment in Kobo360, a transport startup.
    US investment of $100m in Andela, a software company with offices in the US and Nigeria, employing 1000 tech engineers.
  • Senior Facebook managers are from Nigeria and the company has recently opened a lab known as the NG-Hub in the country.
  • Flutterwave is a Nigerian financial tech startup developing a payment platform for B2B transactions, with offices on San Francisco and Lagos, providing an easier way for US businesses operating in Nigeria and across the continent to receive payments.
  • iROKOtv, the leading VOD startup in Africa, runs an office in NYC that assists with creating Nollywood video content that is streamed globally.

While these new travel restrictions may well be delayed by legal challenges, President Trump’s latest travel ban may also prove to be a hindrance to the administration’s initiatives regarding Nigeria and other African countries.

Why is the travel ban being extended now?

The 2020 US presidential elections are looming. President Trump is likely to use his restrictions on travel and his cap on refugee admissions to rally political support for re-election to a second term.

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