Among the more than a dozen executive orders signed by the newly sworn in US President Joe Biden on January 20, were a proclamation Revoke a number of orders from his predecessor Donald Trump that restricted the issuing of visas to citizens of certain countries.
Contain the canceled orders Executive Order 13780 (known colloquially as the “Muslim” or “Travel Ban”) and proclamations 9645, 9723, and 9983 This extended the entry restrictions to other countries. The last of these revoked orders, 9983, issued on January 31, 2020, revealed new restrictions on issuing visas to citizens from six countries: Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania and Kyrgyzstan.
The Trump administration said it had a system in place to assess three criteria: “Whether a foreign government is using reliable identity management practices and sharing relevant information; whether a foreign government is disclosing national security and public safety information; and whether a country is otherwise a national security or public security risk. “Failure to comply would put the six countries on the prohibited list.
Kyrgyzstan, according to the Trump-era proclamation, has not “issued electronic passports or adequately exchanged various types of information, including information on public safety and terrorism.” The proclamation went on to say, “Kyrgyzstan is at increased risk of terrorist travel to the United States compared to other countries in the world, despite responding to the United States’ diplomatic commitment to the need for improvement.”
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Nonimmigrant visas – for tourism, business, students and exchanges – were not affected by the new restrictions. The whole matter was soon eclipsed by the coronavirus pandemic, which closed many world borders for months.
The tone of the proclamation caused anger in Bishkek, although Kyrgyz commentators pointed out that the country was would have botched its introduction of modern biometric Passports and had a history of scandals related to his easily forged documents.
in the December 2020The Kyrgyz government announced the introduction of biometric passports. The new passports of a German company should be available from January 1st.
Kyrgyzstan welcomed the news of Biden’s lifting of Trump’s orders. A statement from Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry congratulated Biden on his inauguration and welcomed the decision to lift the ban.
“The Kyrgyz side welcomes the decision of the President of the United States of America to lift the previously unilaterally imposed visa restrictions on Kyrgyz citizens,” the statement said, adding that Kyrgyzstan had taken active measures to “achieve the objective of lifting.” To achieve restrictions “. ”
“We see this decision as evidence of the constructive and open approach of the new US administration to the question of human contact and exchanges between the two countries. We hope that in the spirit of this new approach, the parties will take real steps to further simplify the visa regime between countries, as discussed earlier by the parties. “
The US embassy in Bishkek repeated the same views. “We commend the government of the Kyrgyz Republic for the significant travel-related security improvements they have made over the past 12 months,” the government said Press release read. The press release notes that due to COVID-19 restrictions, visa processing remains limited and the US government is one Level 4 note “Do not travel” for Kyrgyzstan.
The ban lifted, Kyrgyzstan and the United States could still have some difficult days ahead of them. The United States, for example did not congratulate directly Kyrgyzstan’s elected President Sadyr Japarov when he was elected on January 10th. Instead, the US embassy statement said it “recognizes Sadyr Japarov in his election as President of the Kyrgyz Republic” but saved her congratulations for the Kyrgyz people (this was a departure from the embassy 2017 Congratulations to Soornbay Jeenbekov). The statement referred to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in the European Election Observation Mission, which stated that “a candidate has benefited from disproportionate financial resources and misuse of administrative resources, resulting in an unequal playing field …”. One candidate is not mentioned in the statement, but it is Japarov. He sailed to landslide victory in the vote with almost 80 percent after rising to the political surface amid the political unrest in Kyrgyzstan after October.
Central Asia as a region is rarely high on Washington’s priority lists, so it may take time for the Biden administration to define its own regional strategy. The Trump administration released a strategy for the region in February 2020 that In my estimationspoke in favor of a clear continuity of US policy in the region under better conditions in Central Asia. Sure, the Biden administration’s pledges to focus more on democracy and human rights compared to the Trump administration could spark tension with the largely authoritarian governments of Central Asia, but they could also appeal to local Democrats and civil society in the region. The lifting of the travel ban in Kyrgyzstan puts the Biden government on a positive footing, at least in Kyrgyzstan.