** LEGAL UPDATE **
Nationals of countries with high visa overstay rates, especially people from certain African countries, might want to obtain a visa to travel to the U.S. as soon as possible, if they don’t have one already. The reason is that new regulations could significantly restrict their ability to come the U.S. in the near future.
In April 2019, President Trump issued a memorandum to the secretaries of Homeland Security and State, directing them to provide recommendations to decrease overstay rates for temporary B-1 and B-2 visa holders within the next 120 days.
B-1 and B-2 visas are commonly referred to as “tourist” visas and allow the holder to enter the U.S. temporarily for business meetings, tourism, or certain other purposes, for time periods of between one month and one year.
The recent memo specifically directs the secretaries to provide policy recommendations for countries that have a higher than 10% rate of B-1/B-2 visa overstay or that are members of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and with relatively high rates of overstay. (Nationals of VWP countries can enter the U.S. temporarily without applying for a visa beforehand, but are only authorized to remain in the U.S. for 90 days.)
Most of the countries with high rates of visa overstay are African nations. Those with an over 10% rate of visa overstay include Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gambia, Laos, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, and Togo.
Nationals of these countries are most likely to be affected by new travel restrictions directed by the Presidential memo.
Countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) have much lower rates of visa overstay (almost all less than 2% overall), but much higher total numbers of overstays, since many more travelers are able to enter the U.S. from these countries.
The VWP countries with the highest total number of visa overstays include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain and the VWP countries with the highest rates of overstay include Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain. These VWP countries with the highest rates of visa overstay are most likely to be affected by any coming restrictions.
While the secretaries have not yet released specific plans, they are likely to propose suspending or limiting travel from countries with highest rates of tourist visa overstay (over 10%).
They might also propose requiring additional documentary proof of a visa applicant’s strong ties to his or her home country. Finally, the secretaries might propose “admission bonds” for nationals of certain countries, a fee that would be paid to enter the U.S. and returned upon departure from the U.S. in compliance with the visa.
The secretaries might also want to remove certain countries with relatively high rates of visa overstay (over 1%) from the VWP, which means their nationals would have to apply for a tourist visa at a U.S. consulate abroad before entering the United States.
People who overstay B-1 and B-2 visas are subject to removal (deportation) from the United States. Those who overstay a visa for more than 180 days are barred from returning to the U.S. for three years and those who overstay a visa for more than one year are barred from returning to the U.S. for ten years. There is an additional ten-year bar for those who are ordered removed from the United States in immigration court.
Effective Date: April 22, 2019