President Donald Trump’s administration announced the expansion of travel restrictions—one of his signature policies—to include six new countries: Nigeria, Burma (also known as Myanmar), Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea, and Kyrgyzstan, in a move that is likely to draw renewed criticism from immigration advocates.
The United States will suspend issuing visas that can lead to permanent residency for nationals of Burma, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, and Eritrea. The latest rules will also bar people from Sudan and Tanzania from the U.S. diversity visa program, according to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
“These countries, for the most part, want to be helpful but for a variety of different reasons simply failed to meet those minimum requirements that we laid out,” Wolf told reporters. “And really the only way to mitigate the risk is to impose these travel restrictions,” he added.
Wolf told reporters the six new countries have failed to meet U.S. security and information-sharing standards, meaning that new restrictions are required. Wolf said those countries have either failed to provide information on terrorism suspects or criminals or use poor passport technology.
U.S. travel restrictions are currently being imposed on seven countries, including Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela. Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are four countries that have experienced civil war and numerous terrorist attacks in recent years, while Iran has been accused by the U.S. State Department of sponsoring terrorist organizations. North Korea, meanwhile, is still technically at war with the United States.
While some critics might term the latest move a “Muslim ban,” Burma, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Eritrea are not Muslim-majority countries. Neither are Venezuela or North Korea.
The 2017 version of the travel ban, which was implemented during Trump’s first week in office, was revised after several court challenges, but the Supreme Court upheld the latest iteration in 2018.
Wolf told reporters that Belarus was under consideration in the expanded travel ban, but the country took measures to deal with deficiencies in recent months. It will not face any restrictions, he said.
Nonimmigrant visas were not affected. Those are given to people traveling to the United States for a temporary stay. They include visas for tourists, those doing business, or people seeking medical treatment. During December, for example, about 650,760 nonimmigrant visas were granted worldwide, according to The Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.