Nigerians in limbo after Trump adds country to US travel ban list

Ikenna is in a bind. On the one hand, the US green card holder has been advised not to travel outside the United States for a year to avoid the risk of failing to meet the eligibility criteria for citizenship. On the other hand, his newly wedded wife in Nigeria cannot visit him. She had applied for a tourist visa days before the US suspended a “drop box” procedure in May 2019 that allowed frequent visitors to reapply without being subjected to the interview process – but her application was denied.

The healthcare professional said his wife was told that since she was married to a permanent resident, he should file an immigrant visa application on her behalf instead. As such, Ikenna quit his job in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and relocated to the US in late July to begin the process. In the meantime, his spouse applied for a business visa in October to no avail.

Last week, the White House said immigrants from Nigeria and five other countries will no longer be eligible for visas allowing them to live in the US permanently, expanding its controversial travel ban policy. A presidential proclamation on January 31 cited Nigeria’s failure to comply with security and information sharing requirements, and its high “terror” risk to the US as reasons for imposing the restriction.

“I filed for her (immigrant visa application) in November and now the ban has been announced,” says a frustrated Ikenna. “I’ve been a beneficiary of the long, tedious, nebulous process to obtain my legal permanent residence, and now I’m experiencing the same process to get the visa for my wife.”

He remains unconvinced about the ban, arguing non-immigrant visa applicants were less scrutinised and therefore more of a threat to US security than those applying for immigrant visas.

“The [US government] is not just punishing Nigerians,” he said about the travel restrictions, scheduled to come into effect on February 21. “They’re punishing American citizens,” he added, referring to the thousands of other Nigerians processing immigrant visas for their immediate family members in Nigeria.

That sentiment also rings true for Chienye, a product marketing manager who is currently petitioning for an immigrant visa for his mother in Nigeria. He feels the ban is unfair and infringes on his rights as a US citizen.

“Melania Trump herself used the same immigration method to bring her parents to the United States,” he said of the wide of US President Donald Trump. “That’s one of the luxuries of being a citizen. You can extend that and bring close family members to come be with you here.”

A citizen since 2018, 37-year-old Chienye says he was excited about bringing his mother over as she has never visited in the 15 years he has lived in the US, first in Minnesota and then Washington states. It was something he had hoped to change now that he was financially solvent to pay for her trip.

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