US President Donald Trump has extended his travel ban to Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania in the administration’s latest effort to reshape US immigration policies.

The US will stop issuing visas that offer a path to residency to nationals from these six countries, said Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security on Friday.

The move has been heavily criticised by activists and rights groups that have said that the expansion weaponises “immigration law to advance xenophobic agenda.”

By putting restrictions on the six countries, the Trump administration nearly doubles the number of nations targeted by some form of the travel ban. The expansion is expected to affect more than 350 million people.

Homeland Security officials told reporters that the six countries had failed to comply with U.S. security requirements for passports and information sharing.

The announcement comes three years after the Trump administration signed the executive document suspending immigration from several majority-Muslim nations. The decision caused public outrage and chaos at airports. The policy was revised but upheld by the supreme court in June 2018.

Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria

The issuance of visas that lead to US permanent residency for citizens of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria will be stopped. Non-immigrant visas will not be affected. According to the US State Department, non-immigrant visas include tourism, short-term business, medical purposes, education and journalism, among other exceptions.

Immigrant visas include those for spouses, some family members and certain sponsored employees.

Nigeria is the largest contributor to the African diaspora in the US. By including the West African nation in the ban, the administration is seeking to limit immigration from this country.

The Trump administration said there are some exceptions to the restrictions.   

Sudan and Tanzania

The US government will also stop issuing “diversity visas” to Sudanese and Tanzanian nationals. The visas are allocated by lottery for applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US and they have been criticised by Trump in the past.

The visas are drawn by the State Department through a computer which selects 55,000 people from around the world. Countries with more than 50,000 native immigrants to the US in the previous 5 years are barred. Nigeria is one of them.

Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya

The existing version of the ban that includes Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Libya suspends immigrant and non-immigrant visas but allows exceptions for students and those with “significant contacts” in the US.

These restrictions will continue to stay in place.

South Korea and Venezuela

Most North Koreans are barred from entering the US.

The ban on Venezuela affects government officials and their family members mostly.

The new ban is to be put into effect on February 22nd.

Zahra Khozema