The Trump administration has introduced via a ‘temporary final rule’ a visa-bond pilot program where applications from certain countries travelling to the US for business or as tourists will have to furnish a bond, it’s denomination can be as high as $ 15,000.
However, as the overstay rate for Indians travelling on B1/B2 visas (business and tourist visas) is not high, Indians are excluded from having to furnish such a bond under the pilot program.
During the fiscal year ended September 30, 2019, nearly 12.26 lakh Indians who had visited US on these two visas were expected to depart, or in other words the authorised period of their visa tenure expired within this fiscal year. Only 13,203 overstayed which resulted in India’s overstay rate of 1.08% – much below the 10% which the Trump administration is focussed on targeting.
The temporary final rule was published on November 24 and the pilot program will come into effect, 30 days post that, which is by end December. It will apply to nationals of specified countries with high overstay rates, which includes Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Yemen and several African countries.
It is intended to serve as a diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to take all appropriate actions to ensure that their nationals timely depart the US after their temporary visit.
The pilot program will run up to June 24, 2021, during which period consular officers may require visa applicants falling within the scope of this program to furnish a bond of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 as a condition of visa issuance. The amount of the bond will be determined by the consular officer based on the circumstances of the visa applicant.
TOI in its coverage of the Trump administration’s spring agenda issued in July had covered this proposal. Ironically, the temporary final rule states that the purpose of the pilot is to evaluate the operational challenges and is not aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the bonds for reducing overstays.