Liberia: US Embassy Mute on ‘Internal Matter’ That Led to Suspension of Visa Operation
Monrovia – The United States embassy in Monrovia has declined to offer a more detailed explanation regarding temporary suspension of its non-immigration visa operations in Liberia.
Responding to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry, Selim Ariturk, Public Affairs Officer at the Embassy said: “We do not respond to questions on internal matters.”
The embassy’s silence has fueled numerous speculations regarding why the decision was taken.
Some speculations centered on the upcoming December 30 protest in Monrovia while others wondered whether the move was in line with a pronouncement by the Trump administration earlier this year that it would be closely monitoring countries whose nationals overstay their short-term visas in the U.S. as part of the country’s efforts to curb immigration, including Liberians.
The pronouncement first published in both the Wall Street Journal and Politico in April named African nations with high overstay rates, such as Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could be affected by “rules designed to clamp down” on these countries.
In its 2017 report, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recorded the five countries as among those, under the Non-Visa Waiver program, whose nationals have the highest populations of overstays among non-immigrants in the United States.
“An overstay is a non-immigrant, who was lawfully admitted to the United States for an authorized period but stayed in the United States beyond his or her authorized admission period,” DHS said in the report.
Another speculation suggest that the decision was taken after some Liberians working in the consulate section allegedly took bribes from applicants under the guise of being able to influence their chances of getting visa.
The embassy’s decision also led to speculations the decision is aimed the George Weah administration as a diplomatic pressure for the government to improve its governance issues.
There’s also the possibility that the decision is in line with a US policy where embassies and consulates are sometimes forced to limit or at times suspend visa services because of natural disasters, civil unrest, war and/or security concerns, among other reasons.
For example, in Belarus, Minsk, full visa services are suspended until further notice, but the embassy in Minsk does process non-immigrant visa applications for the following limited categories: A visas for diplomats and government officials; G visas for employees and representatives to international organizations; B visas for relatives of Belarusian diplomats serving at Belarusian diplomatic missions in the United States; visas for family and medical emergencies requiring urgent travel; visas for U.S. Government-sponsored travel and programs; and visas for senior citizens, 70 years of age and older.
In Tripoli, Libya, all visa services suspended and in Portugal, Ponta Delgada, U.S. Consulate Ponta Delgada no longer provides visa services although the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon continue to provide full nonimmigrant visa services for applicants.
In Syria, Damascus, Venezuela and Yemen, Sana’a, all visa services at U.S. Embassy Damascus are suspended.
The embassy appears to have ruled out the decision being driven by a policy shift following a meeting with a government delegation late Monday.
Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told FrontPageAfrica that the embassy told the delegation that the suspension was the result of an internal issue which was being worked on and that the embassy had agreed to revise its notice of suspension on its website after the meeting. “After a government delegation met with US embassy officials this evening, we are satisfied with the explanation given and we look forward to the embassy resolving its internal issues so that visa services can review,” the minister said.
The revised notice reads: “The embassy is temporarily suspending its non-immigration visa operations while we make necessary updates. This temporary suspension does not reflect a change in US visa policy in Liberia. All appointments will be rescheduled through our online appointment system. We regret the inconvenience this temporary suspension causes to applicants. The embassy will continue to provide American Citizen Services and limited immigration visa services during this period.”
The embassy’s previous statement noted that previously scheduled NIV appointments have been canceled. We regret there are no slots available for rescheduling at the moment. “For applicants who previously made NIV appointments: We will reschedule all applicants through our online appointment system as soon as possible; you will receive further notification from us at that time. For applicants who wish to make new NIV appointments: We will update this page when we are able to schedule new appointments. For applicants with genuine emergencies: You may request an NIV expedited visa appointment at http://cdn.ustraveldocs.com/lr/lr-niv-expeditedappointment.asp. The Embassy will continue to provide American Citizen Services and limited Immigrant Visa services during this period. We regret the inconvenience this temporary suspension causes to Liberian applicants.”
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the embassy’s position. In a statement, the ministry said it had received an official notification from the Government of the United States of America, through its Embassy near Monrovia, on a temporary suspension of its Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) operations and limiting its Immigrant Visa services.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, the Government has been assured that Liberian citizens who previously made Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) appointments will be rescheduled through the Embassy’s online appointment system as soon as possible.
This action is temporary and does not reflect a change in U.S visa policy in Liberia.
The Government of Liberia hastens to assure its citizens and the general public that its relations with the Government and people of the United States of America remains mutual to the benefits of both countries.
In the meanwhile, the U.S Embassy has assured of their commitment to addressing genuine emergency applications through its expedited visa appointment platform.
The Government of Liberia regrets whatever inconvenience this temporary suspension may cause it citizens and calls on all to refrain from panicking, as this measure is only temporary.