The United States Government has lifted the visa sanctions imposed on some category of Ghanaians in 2019. The sanctions were over claims that Ghana was unreasonably delaying the return of its nationals ordered to be removed from the US.
The lifting of the visa restrictions followed an agreement reached between Ghanaian officials and their United States counterparts which resulted in the lifting of the sanctions on January 16, 2020.
The restrictions involved the suspension of the issuance of A3 and G5 visas for domestic staff of Ghanaian Diplomats and limited validity of B1/B2 visas issued to Ghanaian officials of the Executive and legislative branches and all officials on the government payroll and their spouse and children under 21years of age.
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration announced this on the floor of Parliament, in Accra, in response to a question posed by Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu.
Mr Ablakwa wanted to know the terms of agreement reached with the United States of America leading to the lifting of the visa restrictions, and the number of Ghanaians removed from the USA.
Ms Botchwey also indicated that during the period of the sanctions, 125 Ghanaians who were ordered to be removed from the USA were deported.
She explained that her ministry had initiated discussions with American officials for an immediate resolution of the matter.
She said she undertook an official visit to meet the Under Secretary for Political Affairs of the US State Department and officials of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Ms Botchwey noted that during the meeting, she proposed a roadmap for the consideration of the US authorities to resolve all issues related to Ghanaians cited for deportation to Ghana.
She said the suggested plan was accepted by the US side, and it was decided that both sides held further consultations in a manner that was mutually beneficial.
Ms Botchwey said meetings were also held with the Assistant Secretary of State of the United States in June 2019, following which the two sides agreed to resolve all outstanding issues.
She said currently, interviews for persons cited for deportation as agreed between the two sides were ongoing.
She however stated that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issuance of Emergency Travel Certificates to facilitate their removal was deferred until borders were re-opened.
She noted that both sides had put in place modalities intended to facilitate and ensure that a procedure was followed in the identification and issuance of the appropriate travel documents in accordance with Ghana’s obligation under international protocols.
She stated that whenever there was the need for specific intervention on humanitarian grounds, health or family that was done by engaging the relevant US authorities.