MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ The United States Embassy in Monrovia has clarified false reports that Liberian citizens can now travel to the US without visas.
A dubious news outlet known as â€œThe BBC Timesâ€ reported that US President Donald Trump had signed an executive order to allow Liberian nationals to travel to the US without visas. Over the past week, the fake report was widely shared on social media and believed by many Liberians.
The report says the order serves as a change in visa policy for Liberians traveling to the US and would permit them stay in the US for a maximum of 180 days for tourism or business purposes. It says staying over 180-days would require a visa.
â€œTrump says this measure is to strengthen trade between the United States and Liberia,â€ the site reported. Liberians who hold dual nationality will be banned from entering the United States if their other passports are from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen- the seven majority-Muslim countries â€œof concern.â€
Robert Clarke, the information assistant in the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy, described the report as untrue.
â€œLiberian citizens traveling to the United States are most welcome but do require a visa,â€ Clarke wrote in an email.
The authenticity of the â€œBBC Timesâ€™â€ report was also put into question because the article is dated Nov. 3, 2016, before Trump was elected president.
Additionally, no other site or popular news out carried the report.
Clarke said changes to visa requirements are always posted on the official State Department website (travel.state.gov) and on relevant US Embassy and consulate websites.
According to Clarke, the US Visa Waiver Program enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
However, he said that the criteria for achieving designation as aÂ Visa WaiverÂ Program country include passport security and a non-immigrant visa refusal rate of no more than three percent, as well as consistent compliance with the immigration law of the United States by nationals of the country in question, for example, timely departures.
â€œLiberiaâ€™s passports meet international security standards,â€ he said.Â â€œHowever, Liberiaâ€™s non-immigrant visa refusal rate is currently higher than three percent, and in FY 2015, 12 percent of Liberian visiting visa holders overstayed their visas rather than departing the United States in a timely fashion.â€
He said Liberia may be eligible for theÂ program in the future when the numbers improve and meet the established criteria. However, it is notable that no African country participates in the program, which includes high-income countries such as South Korea, France, Germany, and Singapore.
Featured photo courtesy ofÂ Philip Marcelo