May 16, 2017
Department of State Drafts Emergency Regulations to Implement “extreme vetting” for Certain US Visa Applicants
In a Federal Register Notice published earlier this month, the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has requested emergency regulatory approval for a supplemental questionnaire Form, known as the DS-5535. The form will be applicable to visa applicants who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities. DOS estimates the additional vetting to impact 65,000 applicants. The following information, if not already included in an application, will be requested from this specific subset of visa applicants worldwide:
- Travel history during the last 15 years, including source of funding for travel;
- Address history during the last 15 years;
- Employment history during the last 15 years;
- All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the 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 5 years; and
- Phone numbers and email address used during the last 15 years.
Most of this information is already collected on the DS-160 visa application but for a shorter time period, e.g. 5 years rather than 15 years. Notably controversial, however, is the government’s request for social media information. The notice does state, however:
Consular officers will not request user passwords and will not attempt to subvert any privacy controls the applicants may have implemented on social media platforms. Consular officers are directed not to engage or interact with individuals on or through social media; not to violate or attempt to violate individual privacy settings; and not to use social media or assess an individual’s social media presence beyond established Department guidance.
DOS’ request comes on the heels of repeated promises to implement “extreme vetting” of visa applicants by the Trump Administration. If granted, the emergency approval is valid for only 180 days, although additional proposed rulemaking could make the changes more permanent. The proposed rulemaking is open for public comment until May 18.
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