Fake News claiming President Trump Authorized Visa-Free Travel for Various Countries (including Afghanistan)

I was recently asked whether it was true that President Trump had authorized Afghanistan for Visa Free travel to the United States for visits of up to 90 days at a time.

It seemed a bit inconsistent with the tone of the Administration’s recent actions, and because all of the 38 countries and territories selected by the U.S. government for the Visa Waiver Program program are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index.  As well, a Forbes article from 7 days ago noted that Afghanistan has the second highest B (visitor) visa refusal rate of 73.8% while a country must have had a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate of less than 3% for the previous year to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. Visa Waiver Program. Alison Siskin. January 15, 2013, (PDF)

I wanted to give a definitive answer to the original question, so I, like anyone verifying an incredible “news story” these days, reviewed the source (in this case a suspicious website entitled “USA Television” that aped, perhaps not coincidentally, the same Old London font as “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times“.  I then turned to the ever reliable Snopes.com which had a direct reference to the Visa Free Travel article and to “USA Television” itself:

“The web site USA Television capitalized on that controversy by pumping out a series of nearly identical fake news articles, each holding that President Trump had “signed a visa-free travel policy” for residents of a given country, ostensibly to “strengthen trade” with that country.  For example, one such article claimed such a policy had been implemented for Pakistani nationals…But USA Television also ran an article that said the very same thing about Ghana. And Botswana. And Belarus.

In fact, in separate articles USA Television claimed President Trump had also implemented visa-free travel policies for citizens of Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Jamaica, Malawi, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the entire Caribbean…If USA Television and their ilk were to be believed, virtually anyone from anywhere in the world could now enter the U.S. for up to six months at a time without the need for obtaining a visa first.”

Thus, I can state that President Trump has not authorized Afghanistan (among many other countries) for Visa Free travel to the United States.  But the lesson we can learn here is that it is everyone’s responsibility to engage in some critical thinking and make an effort to vet a “news” story, else you breathe life to a lie.

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