New Visa Applicant Vetting Procedures

The Trump Administration has begun more intensive vetting of some visa applicants, including the completion of lengthy questionnaires and asking for applicants’ social media handles.   Consular officers will focus on certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants worldwide who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism, national security-related, or other visa ineligibilities. They may ask more detailed information, utilizing a supplemental questionnaire, in order to enhance visa screening. The Trump administration moved to make this questionnaire a more permanent component of the visa application process seeking to use the questionnaire for the next three years.

The supplemental information includes 15 years of an applicant’s travel history and passport information, including the source of funding for any trips, as well as employment and marital history. Previously, this information was requested, but not so far back into time.  What is new, is the question requesting an applicant’s user name on all social media accounts in the last five years.  This question has sparked some controversy, as some believe it to be an unnecessary invasion of privacy, while others believe it to be a rigorous and integral part of the vetting process.

The Department of State estimates that approximately 65,000 visa applicants per year fit a profile warranting use of the additional questionnaire. Though responses to these questions are “voluntary,” one is obligated to respond if he or she wants to obtain or retain an immigration benefit.  Those expecting to attend a consular interview, especially individuals from the six specified countries in the travel ban (Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya), should be prepared to respond to these additional questions and plan to spend at least another hour for the interview process. Dayzad Law will continue to monitor any changes in the visa application process.

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