New visa payment rule for visitors to US from 23 nations

WASHINGTON • The United States will temporarily require visitors from Iran, Myanmar and a number of African nations to pay up to US$15,000 (S$20,100) in visa bonds in a new hardline immigration measure enacted late in Mr Donald Trump's presidency.

The rule takes effect on Dec 24 for a duration of six months, although it remains to be seen if it will be maintained by President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan 20 and has promised to be more welcoming to the rest of the world.

The pilot programme is designed to make up the costs to the US government of deporting foreigners who overstay their visas, according to a notice published on Tuesday in the Federal Register by Mr Carl Risch, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.

Visitors on "B" visas, which are issued for short-term business and tourism, will be asked to pay up to US$15,000, which will be forfeited to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency if they do not prove that they have left on time.

The rule will apply to citizens of 23 countries that, according to the declaration, have overstay rates of more than 10 per cent.

Most of the countries are in Africa, including Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other nations on the list include Iran, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bhutan.

The bonds will not affect students or travellers from fellow developed countries who are exempt from visas to enter the US.

Contrary to the general practice for changes to immigration rules, the Trump administration launched the rule abruptly without a period for public comment and review.

The State Department official defended the streamlined timeframe, saying the issue was a matter of conducting foreign relations and hence, not subject to the usual process.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2020, with the headline 'New visa payment rule for visitors to US from 23 nations'. Print Edition | Subscribe