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A Harbinger For Some U.S. Visa Applicants of More Rigorous Vetting and Longer Waits for U.S. Visas?

May 16, 2017

On March 6th, President Trump issued a Memorandum Seeking Rigorous Evaluation of All Grounds of Inadmissibility. As a direct result of the March 6th Memorandum, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has submitted a request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for emergency review and approval of its intention to collect supplemental information from visa applicants, and they asked OMB to approve their request by May 18th. The DOS proposes requesting the following information, if not already included in the application, from a subset of visa applicants worldwide, in order to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel
  • Address history during the last fifteen years
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by applicant
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings
  • Names and dates of birth for all children
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
  • Telephone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years

Much of this information is already collected on visa applications, but for a shorter period of time, e.g. five years, rather than the fifteen years now requested. Requests for names and dates of birth of siblings and, for some applicants, children, are new. The request for social media identifiers and associated platforms is also new for DOS, although it is already collected in some cases on a voluntary basis by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Regarding travel history, applicants may be requested to provide details of their international or domestic (within their country of nationality) travel, if it appears to the consular officer that the applicant has been in an area while the area was under the operational control of a terrorist organization, as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B)(vi) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Applicants may be asked to recount or explain details of their travel, and when possible, to provide supporting documentation.

This information collection implements the directive of President Trump’s March 6th Memorandum for the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, to implement additional protocols and procedures focused on “ensur[ing] the proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, or grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits.” Consular posts worldwide already regularly engage with law enforcement and the intelligence community to identify sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny. The additional information collected will facilitate consular officer efforts to immediately apply more rigorous evaluation of these applicants for potential visa ineligibilities. In accordance with existing authorities, visas may NOT be denied on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.

DOS officials estimate that 0.5% of U.S. visa applicants worldwide (or approximately 65,000 individuals per year) will present a threat profile, based on individual circumstances and information they provide, that will lead U.S. consular officers at posts around the world to conclude the applicant warrants enhanced screening that takes into account the information that is proposed to be collected. Failure to provide requested information will not necessarily result in visa denial, if the consular officer determines the applicant has provided a credible explanation as to why a question is not answered or requested supported documentation is not provided.

It remains to be seen whether or not the emergency approval is granted by the OMB, and we will continue to update as developments warrant.

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