This is an important news update for any individual applying for a visa: President Trump has recently approved a process of additional screening for select visa applicants, to be implemented immediately.
President Trump has argued that more extensive vetting of visa applicants is needed to protect the United States against terrorism. To achieve this goal, the president has signed off on a questionnaire designed to obtain additional information from certain visa applicants — information that goes beyond what is required as part of the standard visa application process. The questionnaire will appear on form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants.
This questionnaire asks for information covering the last 15 years of the applicant's residence, employment, and travel history. It asks for more information about the applicant's family: the names and birth dates of all spouses, partners, children, and siblings. It also prompts applicants to provide several years’ worth of email addresses, phone numbers, and social media handles. It has been reported, however, that social media account passwords will not be required.
It is important to note that this questionnaire will not be given to all visa applicants. Rather, it will only be given to those that United States consular officers believe present reason for suspicion and warrant increased scrutiny. Critics have pointed out that no information has been given about what guidelines consular officers will use to make these determinations. Therefore, it is likely that individuals from predominantly Muslim nations will be targeted without sufficient cause beyond their national origin. Critics have also argued that such increased screening is unlikely to be effective in preventing terrorist attacks, and will only succeed in unnecessarily complicating and delaying the visa application process.
While filling out the questionnaire is technically voluntary, it has been reported that failure to do so may result in a denial of the visa application. Regardless, the questionnaire will inevitably delay the visa application process of those who are asked to complete the form.
This new immigration procedure has been implemented through an emergency, temporary process by the Trump administration, whose previous efforts to curtail legal immigration through executive orders has been held up in federal courts. The new procedure will remain in effect for six months, until November 2017. After six months, for the questionnaire to become permanent, it must go through the normal procedures involved in amending the legal immigration process.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at Jatoi & de Kirby, A.P.C.