28 per cent increase in US visas for India; 40 per cent decline for Pakistan

Washington: Pakistan has had a significant 40 percent drop in the number of American visas granted to its nationals under the new Trump administration despite not being on the list of the US President’s travel ban countries.

Interestingly, the number of non-immigrant US visas to Indians has increased by 28 percent in March and April this year as compared to the monthly average of the previous year, according to the newly-released monthly official data.

Non-immigrant visas granted to Pakistanis are down by 40 percent in March and April this year compared to the 2016 monthly average, a Pakistani media report said quoting data released by the US State Department.

Pakistanis were issued 3,925 non-immigrant visas in April and 3,973 visas in March 2017 under the Trump administration. The Obama administration last year issued a total of 78,637 non-immigrant visas to Pakistanis with a monthly average of 6,553, which was 40 percent 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. The report compared the March and April 2017 figures 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 for the State Department told The News International: “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 the country, nationality, or visa category level”.

The data showed that Indian nationals received 87,049 visas in April and 97,925 visas in March this year. 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-majority country experiencing a decline in non-immigrant US visas.

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

The six countries targeted by President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban — Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — experienced a 55 percent decline in non-immigrant visas compared with last year’s monthly average. Experts believe that drop in visas may indicate that more visa applicants are now subject to excessive scrutiny.

In January, Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. In March, he signed the revised travel ban excluding Iraq from the list. The order was challenged in a court and a judge had halted the travel ban.