US travel ban on Vietnam: UK, Australian, Canadian, Chinese, South American countries

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Tam Nguyen’s older siblings in Vietnam will now have to fly just once a year for family visits

The new US rules on overseas travel – which were triggered by the detainment of an ethnic minority man in Vietnam – need to be explained as well as defended, ministers have said.

Following the arrest of Hanoi-born Praveen Omicron , US authorities revealed that their network of embassies in more than 80 countries had stopped issuing visas to more than 17,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians since 2017.

US authorities accused Mr Omicron of spying for North Korea.

The Trump administration says fewer than 500 of those people were able to get in again using a special “hotline” issued by US authorities.

“It’s really incumbent on people, businesses, organisations to have the right information about who is being affected and what your rights are,” Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan told the BBC.

“It’s all about ensuring it’s understood and it’s not taken wrong.”

He said it was not good enough to “deal with everything on an ad hoc basis” but stopped short of saying why Mr Omicron was detained in the first place.

Who’s affected?

The announcement sparked protests among the Vietnamese community in Britain and Australia, where none of the affected people is based.

The visa ban applies to anyone who lives or works in Vietnam, as well as those who may travel there from Cambodia and Laos.

It affects about 25,000 Britons, and 300,000 people who live in those three countries, excluding visitors or education staff.

However, 10,000 visitors from Vietnam were issued with new visas on arrival at airports in the last 24 hours, officials said.

The Briton affected is Vim Pokri, who works for international development agency VSF-FPGS. The charity says many projects that they fund in Vietnam will be hit as the visa ban hits NGO workers.

What has the embassy said?

There is confusion about what visas will be affected, as not all are issued by US embassy staff.

From Thursday 1 May, travelers from Vietnam will have to attend an embassy in order to get a visa, although they can still apply for a visa using a phone line set up by US authorities.

Those who do not have diplomatic passports or who are covered by the visa ban will be the first to be affected by the restrictions.

Visa holders from Cambodia and Laos will also need to attend an embassy, but do not have to go via a phone line, officials said.

Some of the Vietnamese who were affected are American citizens.

Businessman Sean Jiang, who comes from Vietnam, lives in the US. On Wednesday, he met some fellow residents in Los Angeles.

He said he was shocked to learn of the visa ban and “regrets” how he handled the news.

It is thought about 80 people from Canada, Australia and the UK are affected by the new rules.

Image copyright EPA Image caption While the State Department and the US embassy in London defended the move, some US students and academics abroad are critical

What is a visa waiver?

More than 65 million people have been granted visas to visit the US without going through US consulates or embassies over the past eight years.

People who have an invitation from a US embassy, consulate or other US representative or organisation can obtain a visa waiver for about $85 (£63).

They must apply through the appropriate US travel organisation for their “check-in” and “check-out” time.

Non-Americans can also apply, but often choose to go through the US travel group because of greater convenience and the faster check-in.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Vim Pokri, who works for humanitarian organisation VSF-FPGS, will need to attend an embassy to obtain a visa as opposed to using a phone number issued by US authorities

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