Nigeria recorded the biggest drop in visits to the United States last year after a string of measures taken by the Donald Trump administration.
Data from the US travel and tourism office shows Nigeria recorded the largest global drop-off in visitors to the US. As of October 2019, as 34,000 fewer Nigerians traveled to the US compared to the previous year—a 21% drop.
After a sustained period of growth between 2011 and 2015, the number of Nigerian visitors to the US started to peak in 2016 until the big drop-off last year.
Coming on Nigeria’s coattails is Venezuela (17.7%), with the Latin American country in the midst of an economic and political crisis which has seen more than four million people flee the country. Another South American country – Argentina – is third on the list with a drop of 15.6%.
The dip in Nigerian visitors to the US followed a string of visa clampdown measures by the Trump administration targeting Africa’s largest economy.
After indefinitely suspending its visa interview waiver for Nigerian applicants (the waiver allowed frequent travellers renew their visa without going through in-person interviews each time), the Trump administration also raised visa application fees for Nigerians by including additional “reciprocity fees” ranging from $80 to $303 depending on the class of visa.
Sources say the measures followed reports that the Trump administration was looking to impose visa restrictions on countries whose citizens have a track record of overstaying beyond the validity of their short-term US visas. As it turns out, Nigerians were the highest ranked African country for US visa overstays in 2018.
The policies also spawned rumours among locals as well: mid-last year, the United States embassy in Nigeria was forced to deny viral reports that it had placed a ban on issuing student visas to Nigerians.
The tougher overall visa stance by the Trump administration couldn’t have come at a worse time for middle class Nigerians who are increasingly emigrating amid fears of economic uncertainty and political clampdown back home.
As unemployment continues to climb following a recession in 2016, the number of middle-class professionals seeking legal immigration pathways to the US, UK, Canada and Europe has been on a steady rise over the past half-decade.