An important piece of immigration news was released recently. The US Department of State decided to move forward with President Trump’s goal of subjecting some visa applicants to more extensive vetting. President Trump has argued that protecting the country from terrorism must involve a more extensive investigation of visa applicants who are deemed to present a potential threat to national security—a process he referred to as “extreme vetting.”
In accordance with President Trump’s “extreme vetting” policy, the US Department of State proposes to identify visa applicants who present a potential threat and require that they submit extensive documentation as part of their application process. This documentation would go far beyond what is required by the normal visa application process. For example, documentation would include such things as:
- Travel history during the last fifteen years
- Address history during the last fifteen years
- Employment history during the last fifteen years
- Names and dates of birth for all siblings, children, and both current and former spouses
- Social media platforms and identifiers used during the last five years
- Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years
Much of the above information is included in the normal visa application process. The key difference is the duration—the proposal would require documentation spanning 15 years, rather than five. Another significant change is the requirement to provide social media information—providing this information is currently optional.
The State Department has emphasized that only a small subset of visa applicants would be subjected to this additional screening, but it is not clear how decisions would be made regarding which applicants are targeted. It is also unknown how this vetting would impact the length of time it takes for an applicant’s visa petition to be processed. There would most likely be a delay in processing, but the approximate length of this delay unclear.
The State Department did emphasize that if applicants cannot provide the requested information, this will not necessarily result in a denial of their visa. However, applicants must provide a reasonable explanation as to why they cannot provide the information. The State Department also said that social media information would not be used to deny visa applicants on the sole basis of their demographic characteristics (race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation), but the proposal provided no indication of how social media information would be used to assess an applicant’s potential threat to national security.
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