US Ambassador explains visa restrictions against Ghana
Ms Stephanie S. Sullivan, United States Ambassador to Ghana, on Friday explained that the United States’ issuance of visa restrictions on some categories of Ghanaians, had been necessitated by the failure of bilateral efforts to resolve the issue.
She said the US had been working with Ghana for more than two years, including as far back as July 2016, for Ghana to issue travel documents for Ghanaian nationals under deportation orders in the US.
She said the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the State had been working with the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration in Ghana, to issue passports for Ghanaian nationals who were subject to deportation orders, within 30 days, in line with the UN Convention on International Civil Aviation, to which Ghana is a signatory.
She said, “The Government of Ghana has consistently not met, in a timely way, this internationally mandated standard of the UN Convention on International Civil Aviation.”
She said the timely issuance of the passports helped to facilitate deportees’ departure on commercial flights, failure of which meant that the US had to arrange charter flights or in some cases, release those under final orders of removal within the US.
Speaking during her first interaction with the press in Accra, Ms. Sullivan said the US would, as a result, pause the issuance of all new visas for domestic employees of Ghanaian Diplomats hosted in the US, effective Monday, February 4th, 2019.
The Embassy would also limit the normal five-year validity period and number of entries on Tourist and Business visas for all Ghanaian Executive and Legislative branch employees, their spouses and children under age 21, to single entry visas valid for only one month.
“This will also apply to Ghanaians who are not government employees but hold diplomatic and official passports,” she said.
She stressed the validity of the visas was however different from the duration of stay. Thus, the allowable duration of stay of a visa holder who enters the US, prior to the one-month visa expiration date, will not be affected.
Current visa holders, student visa applicants, Ghanaian government officials travelling for official duties as well as participants in official US government exchange programmes, are not currently affected.
“We hope to work closely together with Ghanaian authorities to resolve this issue properly. The US government will lift these limitations when the Ghanaian consulate in the US issue the required passports and demonstrate they can consistently provide timely issuance of documents for citizens, going forward,” she said.
She warned that the scope of these limitations would be expanded to include additional categories of people or discontinue additional types of visas if there was no progress in meeting the obligations in the coming months.
Responding to concerns of some of the deportees not being Ghanaian, she said it was the sovereign right of the Government of Ghana to verify their identities as Ghanaians.
She said the US would not force Ghana to take people who were proved to be non-Ghanaians.
“Both we and the Government of Ghana are eager to resolve this issue that has spanned two administrations both in Accra and Washington,” she said.