The immediate impact of the FBI fraudsters list released last Thursday is now on full display as Nigerians applying for visas can no longer secure appointment dates for interviews.
This, it was learnt, is depite applicants’ payment of visa fees and other charges which run from N58,000 to N200,000.
Scooper had earlier reported how a total of 80 suspects, of which 77 are Nigerians, have been accused by the US law enforcement agencies headed by the FBI — of using various online fraud schemes – including business email compromise (BEC) frauds, romance scams, and schemes targeting the elderly- to defraud hundreds of US citizens out of millions of dollars.
The development was announced Thursday, August 22, when the intelligence and security service agencies unsealed a 252-count charges ranging from “conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, aggravated identity theft” filed against the suspects.
Efforts to reach the American Embassy for enquiries have not yielded any positive result, ThePunch reports.
Determined by the class of visa, the cost ranges between $160, $190 and $265; while the exchange rate published on the US Embassy website is N370 to the dollar, which is higher than the Central Bank of Nigeria’s rate of N306/$1, and the black market rate of N363/$1.
Student visa applicants are also made to pay a separate $350 “service fee.”
It was ascertained from the embassy’s website that applicants who wish to apply for business/tourist visas were informed that there are no available dates before November 19, 2019 at the point of filling Form DS160.
However, after payment is made in full and an applicant attempts to make an appointment, one is informed through its consultant website hosted by CGI INC afterwards that there are no available dates for visa appointments.
Also, there is no mechanism put in place for a refund.
A message on its portal, which can only be accessed after payment of visa fees, reads in part, “There are currently no appointment dates available.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Supertech Educonsult, Mr. Oluyemi Ayeni, lamented that many of his students seeking admission to US schools did not get appointments despite paying the service fee.
Ayeni, who helps students with admission and counselling, said the service fee, which is compulsory for all student visa applicants, used to be $200 but has now been increased to $350.
The report quoted him as saying “They are not fixing appointments.
“All my students travelling don’t have appointments and they are resuming in September.
“The service fee that used to be $200 is now $350 (N126,525) non-refundable.
VIDEO: Faces and Names of 80 Nigerians Arrested by FBI for Large Scale Fraud in US
“When you add the visa fee, everything is over N200,000 and it is non-refundable.
“My students are crying; they are suffering. And there is nobody to turn to.
“The embassy has been paid, yet no appointment for anybody.”
The Punch also reported a protocol officer in one of the federal ministries saying that government officials travelling unofficially were finding it hard to book appointments.
He said, “We have been trying to get appointment dates since June, to no avail.
“In the past, it would be indicated on the website that you cannot get dates earlier than a specific time.
“However, what it states on the website now is that there is no available date at any time.
“It was never this bad. I have been booking visas for government officials for over seven years now. I still booked visas for UK and Canadian high commissions just recently without any hassles.
“The US used to be the easiest, but now, it is frustrating.
“Even the customer care numbers on the website are not helpful.
“The only persons that can get visas now are those given notes through the ministry of foreign affairs.”
It was learnt that despite the claims of the US Embassy in Nigeria that there are no available dates, travel agents were selling appointment slots to desperate applicants.
The agents, it was learnt, charge between N60,000 and N100,000, depending on one’s bargaining skills and the preferred date of interview.
The United States Embassy in Nigeria had in May announced stiffer and stricter visa application processes for Nigerians.
It said at the time that all applicants including frequent travellers, who used to use the drop box method, will now have to appear for interviews each time they apply.
It, however, said diplomatic and government officials could continue to enjoy the status quo.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, told the newspaper that the US embassy was American territory and that he could not do anything about its visa appointments.
Nwonye said, “What do you think I should do? Do I work in the American embassy? How can you go to the American embassy and they will tell you about appointments and you come to start asking me? Do I work in the American embassy?”
The US embassy in Nigeria has come under intense criticism in recent time for its high rate of visa refusal of Nigerians especially those applying for student visas, but it denies all allegations.
News report about how the embassy denies hundreds of Nigerians visas and generates N57m from Nigerians daily prompted the House of Representatives to launch an investigation into the matter in late 2018.
The probe was however, cancelled along the line.