By Samson Berhane
Some employees allegedly do not disclose the purpose of their travel clearly
The US Embassy in Addis Abeba is not happy with employees or spouses of the Ethiopian Airlines who travel to the United States, give birth while on visitors’ visa and return home with outstanding hospital bills.
The Embassy has served a notice to the management of the Airlines, urging its employees travelling to the United States to disclose to consular officers should they have received medical care while in the US previously. The Embassy has compiled a list of all the Airline’s staffs or their spouses who gave birth there, sources disclosed. It also threatened to deny them entry permanently should they provide information in falsehood upon application for renewal.
“Obtaining a visitor visa to get medical care in the United States, including for childbirth, is allowed under United States law,” said a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Addis Abeba, in an email sent to Fortune, while declining to comment on the particular case in relations to the Ethiopian Airlines. “But, travellers are expected to pay for the medical care they get.”
Anyone who applies for a visa must disclose the purpose of their travel clearly during visa interviews and should pay for a planned expense, including medical treatment, according to the Embassy.
Mostly cabin crews, women employees, and spouses of employees of the national carrier obtain visas to the United States with the aim of delivering there and hoping to get an automatic American citizenship for their children.
“We know such problems exist,” said a person close to the Ethiopian Airlines Employees Union. “It is very normal. To make a child an American citizen, we have seen many employees travel to the United States to give birth.”
The management of the Airline declined to comment despite repeated efforts for a response.
The notice to Airlines comes at a time when the American government has become stringent in issuing visa requests. A few months ago, the current US Administration banned entries from seven highly Muslim populated countries in the Middle East and Africa, after applying new security checks before granting visas to visitors. Trump’s Administration, whose decision with immigration is challenged in a court of law, blamed its predecessor of not properly screening people travelling to there.
A diplomatic cable sent to all American embassies told consular offices to apply stricter security checks, according to a story in The Washington Post.
An employee of the Airlines believes that getting a visa to the US has never been easy.
“Unlike other embassies, the chances of acquiring a United States visa is unlikely,” said this employee who has worked in the Airlines for over seven years. “Now, with the existence of such problem, it will be severe.”
However, the US Embassy in Addis Abeba granted more than 18,000 non-immigrant visas in 2016, up by 125pc from 2007, according to data from the Embassy. Last year, the United States issued over 10 million visas globally, according to the Bureau of Consular Offices, under the States Department. However, the Embassy in Addis Abeba issued 10,900 immigrant visas in 2016, while denial rate reaches between 40pc and 60pc, according to data from the Bureau.
“Misleading a Consular Officer to get a permit can result in future visa denials and even a permanent ineligibility to get visas,” said the spokesperson.
The Embassy told the Airline that if employees and their spouses provide truthful information on past deliveries and proper closure of outstanding bills, their applications for renewal will be treated according to the US immigration laws, sources disclosed. The Airlines’ Human Resource Department has advised employees for caution.