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Is the U.S. Now Visa-Free For Ghanaians Without Criminal Records?

Photo Credit: @USEmbassyGhana 2 mins read

CLAIM: “US is now visa-free for Ghanaians without criminal records: stay of no more than 30 days allowed.”

CONCLUSION: TOTALLY FALSE

EVIDENCE: The claim has been debunked by the U.S. Embassy in Ghana in a tweet. Also, Ghana is not on the U.S. State Department’s Visa Waiver Program list.

FULL STORY:

A story published on a website called [email protected] on April 3, 2019, has generated some excitement among travel hopefuls. With the headline “BREAKING NEWS: U.S is now Visa-free for Ghanaians without criminal records; stay of no more than 30 days allowed”, the story claims that “holders of Ghanaian passport without criminal records are entitled to visit the U.S. without visas for a period of 30 days only.”

It cited a “Satirist Attachee at the embassy,” a portfolio which sounds dubious, as saying the only documents Ghanaians need to travel to the United States (U.S.) are a valid passport and police clearance certificate.

The story was sourced almost verbatim by other online platforms who missed the caution on the “disclaimer and who we are” section of News @ 7 that it is a “satirical website’ which should not be relied on for news unless otherwise indicated.

It has received 964 retweets, 991 likes and 136 comments on Twitter with some users urging their respective countries to emulate Ghana in order to enjoy the same privilege. The interest generated by the story is understandable considering the number of would-be travellers who are refused visas every day across Africa.

Unfortunately, the United States Embassy in Ghana in a tweet has debunked the story. It further directed persons seeking to travel to the U.S. to visit their website for accurate and up-to-date information about US visas.

This is not the first time such news is being circulated. In 2017, the US Embassy in a tweet refuted reports of visa policy change for Ghanaians following claims on some websites that President Donald Trump had signed an executive order allowing Ghanaians to travel to the U.S without visas.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR A VISA-FREE US ENTRY?

The U.S. Department of State lists countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without visas under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) on its website. Under the program, citizens from 38 countries can travel to the U.S. for not more than 90 days without a visa if they meet certain requirements. Ghana is NOT on the list.  A country must meet the visa refusal rate (that is how often the U.S. refuses a visa request) of less than 3 per cent among other requirements to qualify. This may however not happen anytime soon for Ghana considering its current visa refusal rate of 49.35 per cent, an improvement on a refusal rate of 65.7 per cent in 2016.

CONCLUSION:

News @ 7, a “satirical website” reported that Ghanaians without criminal records could travel to the U.S. without a visa. The story was widely circulated with other websites sourcing it almost verbatim. The U.S. Embassy in Ghana has denied the report and has directed persons aspiring to travel to its website for accurate information. Also, Ghana is not on the U.S. State Department’s Visa Waiver Program list!

Caroline Anipah is the Programme Officer of DUBAWA, Ghana. She holds an MPhil in Communication Studies and an undergraduate degree in English and Political Science from the University of Ghana. She is a trained journalist and has engaged in various research activities with notable institutions including Ghana Statistical Service, German Development Institute (GIZ) and the USAID Evaluate for Health over the years. She has also worked with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) on a regional (West Africa-wide) comprehensive research on the state of the media. She brings to the project and team, her experience in both media and research.

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