- The United States of America will temporarily require visitors from 23 countries including Iran to pay up to $15,000 in visa bonds in a new hard-line immigration measure.
- The aim is to discourage travelers from countries with high rates of visa offenders from overstaying on their business and tourism visas.
- The program does not apply to immigrant visas.
Washington announced on November 23 that it will launch a six-month trial program next month to force visitors from Iran, Myanmar and a number of African nations to pay up to 15,000 dollars in visa bonds before they enter the United States.
The aim, first spelled out in a presidential memorandum 19 months ago, is to discourage travelers from countries with high rates of visa offenders from overstaying their tourist visas and business.
The rule will take effect on December 24, and continue through most of June. Although it remains to be seen if it will be maintained by President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on January 20 and has promised to be more convivial to the rest of the world.
Visitors on “B” visas, which are issued for short-term tourism & business, will be asked to pay up to $15,000, which will be handed over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency if they do not exit on time.
The rule has been imposed on the citizens of 23 countries that have an overstay rate of more than 10 %.
Most of the countries are from Africa, including The Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Other nations on the list include Iran, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Myanmar. Trump has already sharply curtailed travel from Iran — part of his “Muslim ban” promised during his 2016 campaign, which Biden plans to overturn.
Also, the bonds are not going to affect students & travellers from fellow developed countries who are exempted from visas to enter the United States.
A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on that fiscal year shows the worst offenders were mostly from Chad (44.94 %), Djibouti (37.91 %), & Mauritania (30.49 %). Actually, 15 of the 24 countries above 10 % are in Africa.
Iran at 21.64 % and Afghanistan at 11.99 %, as well as Bhutan and Laos were also included in the list.
The DHS report counted more than 422,000 instances of overstays, including those who came through the Visa Waiver Program and those who did not in the fiscal year 2019 by business and tourism visitors.
The State Department official defended the move by saying that the issue was a matter of conducting foreign relations and hence not subject to the usual process.
Carl Risch, the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs 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 timely depart the United States after making temporary visits.”
The justification is at odds with the summary in the same filing which said 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.”