• Gbemileke Babatunde

What Biden’s Immigrant Visa Ban Reversal Means for Nigerians

After being sworn in as 46th United States President on Wednesday, Joe Biden repealed a number of Donald Trump’s immigration policies by executive action, with the reversal of the immigrant visa ban chief among them. In stark contrast to his predecessor’s immigration actions, Biden introduced an immigration reform bill and lifted Trump’s travel ban on Muslim and African countries including Nigeria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Tanzania.

Recall that Trump had imposed an immigrant visa ban on Nigeria in January 2020, tagging Nigeria a high “terror” risk to the US. Prior to Biden’s annulment, Trump’s ban prevented Nigerians from being able to apply for an immigrant visa to the United States. Nigerians could only apply for non-immigrant visas including business/tourist, student, Exchange visitor, Transit/ship crew and domestic employee visas.

Now that the ban has been overturned, Nigerians can apply for immigrant visas into the US. Here’s what you should know about the US immigrant visa.

Immigrant visas are for people who plan to permanently reside in the United States. Applying for the immigrant visa potentially qualifies you for entry into the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident. If your application is successful, you could later apply for US citizenship after living in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least five years, or three years (if you’re married to a US citizen).

In Nigeria, only the US Consulate General in Lagos processes immigrant visa applications. You cannot apply for immigrant visas at the US Embassy in Abuja.

Immigrant visa applications can be initiated when a qualified relative of yours who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident files a petition on your behalf to the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States. If you have secured employment in the US, your employer could submit a petition on your behalf.

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Moreover, Biden’s decision to end Trump’s travel ban on Nigeria means that the state department would restart visa processing for the potential Nigerian immigrants and seek to address inconveniences caused by the ban, especially for those who had visas denied.

According to White House officials, Biden will send an immigration bill to the US Congress for the enactment of the US Citizenship Act of 2021.

The Act would allow undocumented Nigerian immigrants in the US apply for temporary legal status, and later apply for a US permanent residence card (green card) after five years if they fulfil specified criteria.

For Nigerians who had left the United States due to illegal residence status, the Act will eliminate the 3-year and 10-year bans that prevent them from re-entering the US. In line with the Act, the word “noncitizen” would replace “alien” in the immigration laws, while diversity visas (lottery visas) for Nigeria and other benefiting countries are expected to be increased from 55,000 to 80,000.

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