40pct decline in US visas for Pakistanis, despite Pakistan not being on Trump travel ban list

Despite not being on the list of President Trump’s “Muslim ban” countries, Pakistan is experiencing a significant decrease in number of non-immigrant US visas issued to its nationals under the new administration.

An analysis of newly released official figures show non-immigrant visas granted to Pakistanis are down by 40 per cent in March and April this year compared to the 2016 monthly average.

The State Department data shows that Pakistanis were issued 3,925 non-immigrant visas in April and 3,973 visas in March this year under the Trump administration.

The data shows that Obama administration last year issued a total of 78,637 non-immigrant visas to Pakistanis with a monthly average of 6,553, 40% higher than the current average.

Before March this year, the State Department did not release monthly breakdowns of visas and only annual figures were available. So the comparison of March and April 2017 figures was done with monthly averages for 2016.

Even in 2015, monthly average remained 6,179 as a total of 74,150 Pakistanis had been granted visas.

A spokesperson of the State Department quoted by a local Pakistan daily said: “Visa demand is cyclical, not uniform throughout the year, and affected by various factors at the local and international level. Visa issuance numbers tend to increase during peak travel seasons, such as during the summer and the winter holidays, though there may be different trends at the country, nationality, or visa-category level,” the spokesperson said.

Interestingly, the number of non-immigrant visas has increased for India by 28% in March and April this year as compared to the monthly average of 2016.

The state department data shows Indian nationals received 87,049 visas in April and 97,925 visas in March. Last year, people from India received 72,082 non-immigrant visas each month on average with an annual total of 864,987 visas.

Pakistan is not the only Muslim country experiencing decline in non-immigrant US visas.

A similar analysis of 50 Muslim majority countries reveals that number of visas issued to their nationals has also declined by 20% in April as compared to their monthly country average last year.

Six countries targeted by Trump’s March 6 travel ban — Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen experienced 55% decline in non-immigrant visas compared with last year’s monthly average.

The State Department data does not show how many people had been rejected non-immigrant visas from Pakistan and other Muslim countries in March and April so it is hard to guess whether the decline in number is caused by rejection of visas or it shows a lack of interest among nationals of these countries in visiting the United States under the new administration, reported The News.

Although President Trump’s travel ban is now ineffective after the US federal courts’ orders, the State Department has already stepped up vetting procedures for visitors to the United States.

Experts believe the drop in visas may indicate that more visa applicants are now subject to excessive scrutiny. Trump has called the procedure “extreme vetting”.

A week after assuming office President Trump had issued an executive order barring visitors from Iraq, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

US Federal court blocked the order after massive protests, terming the order discriminatory against Muslims. A revised softer executive order issued on March 6 also met the similar fate. The Trump administration has still not produced any factual basis justifying the six-country ban, reported The Atlantic.

According to the influential magazine, the department of Homeland Security reports deny that immigrants from these countries pose any unusual danger; past national-security officials filed briefs stating that the ban serves no anti-terrorism purpose.

Meanwhile, according to reports, Trump’s “travel ban” is headed for the Supreme Court.

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