The Trump administration is set to impose temporary US visa bonds on visitors from more than 20 countries, including Iran, Myanmar and a number of African nations. The hardline US immigration measure could see visitors forced to pay up $15,000 in addition to other visa costs.
The rule is scheduled to take effect on Christmas Eve and run for six months. However, it remains to be seen whether President-elect Joe Biden will maintain the rule once he takes office in January 2021.
According to a notice published in the Federal Register by the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, Carl Risch, the pilot program is designed to ‘make up the costs to the US government of deporting foreign nationals who overstay their US visa.
B1 and B2 visas
Foreign nationals from the countries targeted by the scheme, coming to the US on B1 and B2 visas – reserved for short-term business trips and tourism – will be subject to a fee of up to $15,000 payable to US immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), should they fail to prove that they left the US prior to the expiry of their visa.
Citizens of 23 countries will be subject to the visas bonds, which according to the notice published in the Federal Register, have a US visa overstay rate of more than 10 per cent. The majority of the countries are African, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Other countries subject to the bonds include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Iran and Myanmar. Trump has already imposed heavy restrictions on several of the countries subject to the bonds, such as Iran, as part of his so-called ‘Muslim-majority’ travel ban, which incoming President Joe Biden plans to end.
Visa bonds abruptly introduced
The announcement of the US visa bonds comes despite a lack of any period for public comment and review, which is usually general practice ahead of potential US immigration rule changes.
The US Statement Department defended the decision not to subject the changes to public comment, saying that the issue was ‘a matter of conducting foreign relation, hence it’s not subject to the usual process.’
The notice posted by Frisch said: “The Pilot Program is being studied as a potential diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to take all appropriate actions to ensure that their nationals depart the United States in a timely manner after making temporary visits.”
However, the justification for introducing the bonds is seemingly at odds with a summary in the same filing, which stated that the program was ‘meant to reduce the burden to the US government and does not aim to assess whether issuing visa bonds will be effective in reducing the number of aliens who overstay.’
The full list of countries subject to the bonds is as follows:
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa)
Papua New Guinea
Sao Tome and Principe
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