Ghana’s US Visa Problem Explained – No New Ones Until You Take Back The Old Violators

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Ghana has an unfortunate problem concerning visas to visit the United States – few new ones are being issued for Ghanaians to travel. This is all causing more than a little consternation but the reasoning is really pretty simple. It’s regarded as a privilege to allow foreigners into the country. This is an idea common to all governments, letting them in is something that we graciously allow, maybe. The issuance of visas thus becomes tied up in everything else that governments do. Like, for example, trying to get rid of those who shouldn’t have had visas, or who have abused them in some manner. Grasping this allows us to understand the Ghana and US visa spat currently going on:

The United States Ambassador has explained that her country’s issuance of visa restriction on some categories of Ghanaians had been necessitated due to the failure of bilateral efforts to resolve the issue. Stephanie S. Sullivan said the US been working with Ghana for more than two years, including as far back as July 2016, for Ghana to issue documents for Ghanaian nationals under deportation orders in the US. She said the Department of Homeland Security and Department of the State has been working with the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington and Foreign Affairs Ministry in Ghana to issue passports for Ghanaians who were subject to deportation orders within 30 days, in line with the UN Convention on International Civil Aviation.

OK, no, we need to go just that little bit deeper here.

On the surface this is entirely simple and logical. Some people from Ghana – alleges the US at least – have abused the visas they were issued with. Overstayed them perhaps, worked on a student visas maybe, that sort of thing. So, having been caught, they should be sent back to Ghana. And, as is the way of these things, never darken the doors of the United States again. This is entirely normal, having been deported means a permanent, lifetime, ban on entering the US.

So, the Ghanaian authorities should issue the necessary travel documents so that they can indeed be deported and there we are. The US alleges that Ghana isn’t doing so. The answer is to make sure that fewer, or none in certain classes perhaps, visas are issued to people from Ghana in order to pressure the government of Ghana to pull its thumb out.

The slightly deeper dive is that, well, one way of not being deported is to have no travel documents. If you’ve no passport showing where you come from, and you don’t say yourself, then where should the US deport you to? Sure, if you’ve jut got off a flight from somewhere then why not just send you back? But if you’re picked up by ICE in any random city, well, what’s the proof you’re from Ghana? If there are no travel documents nor passports that is?

Thus there’s actual advice given to illegal migrants. Lose your documents of origin. And that’s really the issue here. There’s no need for Ghana to issue new documents to people who still have their passport. But if people have “lost” it, or deliberately mislaid theirs, then a new one must be issued. At which point, well, hmm. Because we really all do think that Ghana will issue a passport within 30 days, don’t we?

Two individuals chasing their passports since 2017 have now gained access to their travel documents within minutes thanks to the intervention of Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey. Charity Tinka and Justice Adjei applied for their passports in November and December last year, respectively. They were supposed to receive their passports at least two weeks after putting in their applications. Two weeks turned into months without issuance of the passports. According to the two, whenever they came to the Passport Office, they were told it was not ready. However, when the Foreign Minister paid an unannounced visit to the Passport Office in Accra, Tinka and Adjei’s documents were made available and issued immediately.

As we said about this:

I am an aficionado of scams and schemes. And this is a classic one. There is no particular reason the office can only process 100 applications a day. But by limiting their ability to just that many the office can create a value in the document being processed that day. Which is why the promise and the limit exist – to make those places in the queue valuable. And most assuredly those “smuggling” people into the queue are passing some of that dash into the office. We also know that the Minister isn’t involved. For if she were then the Miracle wouldn’t have happened, would it? Which is one way that Ghana is indeed different from Nigeria, and in a good way. We might also make the crack that Ghana’s dictator was a Flight Lieutenant, not a General, showing a welcome bias towards the Air Force there.

And to the point which really does need to be made to the fools out here. There are all too many insisting that what ails places in Africa and other parts of the world is an insufficiency of government, of bureaucracy. Given the bureaucracy they’ve got this is not so. Yes, obviously, it does have to be the government and the civil service issuing the passports but given this story, this experience, who wants local to the area government to be doing anything other than what is absolutely, no doubt about it, completely and totally necessary? It is, after all, possible to have an excess of bad, incompetent, venal and corrupt governance.

The US government expects a new passport to be issued by Ghana within 30 days. No one in Ghana at all expects a new passport to be issued by Ghana within 30 days. And within the incomprehension between those two beliefs and expectations is the problem that is leading the US to restrict visa issuance. It’s the bribery and corruption of the passport issuance office that is leading to the Americans restricting visas. Hey, maybe it will even work. Enough people get pissed at not being able to get visas and maybe the Ghanaian government will finally sort out its own civil service? Certainly it’s got a great excuse here to back up serious and significant action. But, you know, will it?

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Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

Fingerprints. The ones they take on entry, while you still have your Ghanaian passport.