Immigration Ban: Nigerian Man Handed Written Test At New York Airport To Prove Credentials


A software engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, Celestine Omin has claimed he was made to sit a written test by US airport immigration officers to prove his tech credentials because they weren’t convinced he was telling the truth about his skills.

According to social networking site LinkedIn, Celestine Omin, 28, landed at New York’s JFK airport last Sunday after a 24-hour flight from Nigeria.

Mr. Omin is employed by Andela, a tech start-up with offices in New York, Lagos, Nairobi and San Francisco.

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The firm says it recruits “the most talented developers on the African continent” and connects them with tech employers in the US for potential job vacancies. Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerberg, visited Andela’s office in Lagos last year.

Mr. Omin had reportedly been granted a short-term visa to work with First Access, a financial technology company in New York’s Manhattan district.

“Your visa says you are a software engineer. Is that correct?” an officer is reported to have asked Mr. Omin.

Celestine Omin

He says he was then given a piece of paper and a pen and told to answer these two questions to prove he is actually a software engineer:

“Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced. What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?”

Mr. Omin told LinkedIn it seemed to him the questions had been “Googled” by “someone with no technical background”.

He said later on Twitter that he was “too tired to even think”, and told the officer they could “talk about other computer science concepts”.

After he handed back his answers, he was told by the officer that they were wrong. He said he presumed he was required to provide “the Wikipedia definition” for the questions.

After being asked a series of questions by a US Customs and Border Protection officer, he was taken into a room for further checks and was later told he was free to go.  It was later discovered that border protection officers had phoned Andela to verify his story.

Speaking to BBC, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said: “US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers strive to treat all people arriving in the country with dignity and respect.

“While we are not at liberty to discuss individual cases due to the Privacy Act, our CBP officers enforce not only immigration and customs laws, but also more than 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of US law.”

The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was recently detained by immigration officials at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport because he is a Muslim.

Muhammad Ali Jr., along with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali were returning to Florida from Jamaica after speaking at a black history event. They were retrieving their bags at baggage claim when an official pulled them aside.

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Camacho-Ali said she was finally released after she showed the official a photo of herself with her then ex-husband, Muhammad Ali.

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Nigeria is not one of the seven countries included in the US President’s temporary immigration pause.