Hoax embassy pages falsely claim Trump made visa announcements for Kenya and Liberia
Posts claiming that the US has announced permanent “E-visas” for Kenya and Liberia have been shared multiple times on Facebook. The claim is false; the claim was shared by Facebook pages impersonating those of the two African nations' embassies, which both dismissed the announcements as hoaxes.
On October 18, 2020, a Facebook page called "Embassy of Kenya Washington DC" shared a post claiming that US President Donald Trump officially communicated his decision about the allocation of E-visas to Kenya’s ambassador Robinson Githae.
“President Donald Trump following the tragic death of over 240,000 Americans who died from Covid 19, has signed in his recent Executive Order stating that interested citizens of the Republic of Kenya who measure in some special professions are eligible for Permanent America E-Visa,” reads the post, attributed to Githae.
It adds: “The information was officially communicated to His Excellency Robinson Njeru Githae, Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States.”
The post further listed professions and specialists eligible for the purported permanent E-visa, adding that the opening would accommodate up to 6000 people.
The page only has 43 followers and was created on the same day as the post was published, according to Facebook’s transparency information. Apart from a reshare of the post the following day, there since has been no other activity on the page.
A few days earlier, on October 14, 2020, a similar post was shared on a Facebook page called "Liberia Embassy in Washington DC".
“American E-Visa announcement for the citizens of Liberia,” reads the post, attributed to the country’s ambassador to the US George S. W. Patten.
Again, the page was created only a day before the post was published, with no other activity since.
Not official embassy Facebook pages
The two Facebook pages behind the purported announcements are not official pages of the respective embassies.
Both embassies dismissed the announcements as “false” and “fraudulent” in statements on their official websites (here and here).
“The Liberian Embassy wishes to inform the public that the information is absolutely false and misleading and that at no time did the Ambassador receive such communication from the US President or any official of the US government,” reads part of the Liberian embassy’s statement.
Their Kenyan counterparts, whose official Facebook page is verified with more than 10,000 followers, described the announcement as “fraudulent” and warned the public against sending money to any of the phone numbers provided in the posts.
“The announcement did not originate from the Embassy, should be ignored and not be circulated under any circumstances. Do not send any money to the fake numbers being circulated. The indicated phone numbers do not belong to the embassy.”
US visa regulations
The E-visa category allows “treaty traders” and investors to travel to the United States under a bi-lateral treaty of commerce and navigation. While the United States maintains treaties of commerce and navigation with Liberia, Kenya is not on the list.
President Trump’s administration has been tightening rules for immigration visas by narrowing the list of qualifications eligible for the visa and reducing the length of stays for workers in some fields.
On October 6, 2020, the department of homeland security announced stringent measures affecting H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. The visa programme has been widely used by Silicon Valley firms to bring in engineers and other skilled workers but, according to the new regulations, the firms will be forced to make offers to US residents before seeking to bring in foreigners.