An article circulating online claims that the US government has added 10 countries including Kenya, South Africa and Argentina to its Visa Waiver Program (VWP). But none of these countries appears on the VWP list available on the US Department of Homeland Security website. The US State Department told us there was no truth to the claim.
The VWP allows most citizens of countries on the list to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without needing a visa.
The article, which we’ve archived here, claims that the US has added Argentina, Cameroon, Georgia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, the Seychelles, South Africa and Uruguay to the VWP list.
It was published on a website calling itself “AP News” — an apparent attempt to mimic the US news agency Associated Press. Some readers indeed took the article for a genuine AP article:
Screenshot taken on May 24, 2019 of tweet that included the false article
The same text was shared on this Cameroonian news website, the Journal du Kwatt.
But there is no trace of such an announcement on any official US government website, and none of the countries appear on the list of 38 nations currently included under the Visa Waiver Program.
Some online users appeared unconvinced — tagging the AP and the US embassy in Kenya, asking them to confirm if it was true or not.
Some social media users questioned the veracity of the article
The US embassy in Kenya dismissed the claims as false in a tweet on May 17.
We also checked with the State Department in Washington, DC who told us: “This information contained in this article is incorrect. The US Department of State has made no recent announcement on the Visa Waiver Program.”
Websites spreading false information sometimes attempt to imitate well-known news organisations to gain credibility. The US magazine The Atlantic, for example, recently described how a fake website, theatlatnic.com as opposed to theatlantic.com, was created as part of a pro-Iran misinformation campaign.
In the case of the visa waiver story, the website’s address — news-ap.com — is different from that used on the official AP site, ap.org. The imitation site also doesn’t use official AP branding. And finally, the writing style doesn’t match that used by the news agency.
For instance, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is casually referred to as ‘Mike’, contrary to the AP’s customary style of using people’s surnames when mentioning them for the second time in an article.