29,723 Nigerians overstayed visas in US in 2018 as Trump wields hammer

Almost 30,000 Nigerians stayed beyond the period lawfully allowed by their visas in the US last year.

President Muhammadu Buhari and President Donald Trump at a bilateral meeting in the White House on April 30, 2018 [Twitter/@MBuhari]

In a new report released by the DHS, the number of Nigerian immigrants who overstayed their non-immigrant tourism/business (B1/B2) visas between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 represents 15.18% of the total 195,785 expected departures.

The DHS described an overstay as a non-immigrant who was lawfully admitted to the U.S. for an authorised period, but remained beyond his or her authorised period of admission.

Of the 29,723 culprits who arrived in the North American country through the air or sea port of entry, there's no departure record for 29,004, while 719 left after their visas officially expired.

A total of 19,676 Nigerians overstayed their visas in the U.S. in 2017, representing 10.61%. Just the previous year in 2016, only a total of 12,043 Nigerians (6.34%) that travelled to the U.S. overstayed their visas.

Nigeria's high overstay rate might not be unconnected to the announcement this week by the U.S. embassy in Nigeria that the visa interview waiver for those renewing visas in the country has been indefinitely suspended.

Before the suspension, Nigerian holders of US visa types B1/B2, F, H, and L could renew their visas online by processing it through DHL using one of several dropbox locations across the country without attending physical interviews.

With the suspension, such people will now have to visit the embassy in Abuja or consulate in Lagos for in-person interviews, a process that's expected to lead to delays in scheduling appointments.

The embassy assured that it is taking the new step to provide more efficient customer service and promote legitimate travel.

Nigeria's overstay rate, as well of that of nationalities of other countries, is a source of concern for US president, Donald Trump, whose administration has been tough on immigration.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that countries whose citizens overstay visas are at risk of getting hit with travel restrictions as part of new immigration measures being considered by the administration.

A Trump administration official told WSJ that the high percentage of overstays could compel the U.S. to warn affected countries that future visas could be shorter or harder to get if rates don't reverse.

He said nationals from countries with high overstay rates could be barred entirely although no ban is currently under consideration.

White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, also said the Trump administration considers it a top priority to reduce overstay rates for visas.

"It's well known that the administration is working to ensure faithful implementation of immigration welfare rules to protect American taxpayers," he said.

In its new report, DHS reported that overstay rates have declined and that it will continue efforts to end visa overstay abuse.

Trump was elected U.S. president in 2016 largely off the back of his tough stance on both legal and illegal immigration, an approach he's expected to double down on for his 2020 re-election campaign.

The Republican president's tough stance on immigration has led to a panicky exodus of immigrants from the North American country. His threat to review the Temporary Protected Status of thousands of foreign nationals in 2017 led to an upsurge of immigrants heading to neighbouring Canada.

Between June 2017 and May 2018, Canadian authorities intercepted more than 7,600 Nigerian asylum seekers, with 81% of them having valid U.S. non-immigrant visas in their possession.

The trend of illegal border-crossers from Nigeria worried the Canadian government so much that two officials were sent to Lagos in 2018 to work directly with their counterparts in the U.S. visa office to collaborate on how to lower the number of migrants who eventually end up making asylum claims in Canada.

More recently, the Canadian government adopted a new stringent policy to deal with asylum seekers who illegally cross into the country from the U.S.

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