MRC Department of State Proposed New Visa Issuance Changes

Written by Frederik Stefani

Recently, Department of State has proposed new regulations about extra scrutiny, which will delay interview appointments and eventually create a huge backlog. The Department of State wants to add additional questions to visa application to comply with the President’s Executive Order that guides the Department of State’s “extreme vetting.”

The Department of State has estimated that 65,000 out of 14 million applicants might be affected by the new rules that apply during the year.

Some of the questions could include the following:

  • Travel history during the last 15 years, including source of funding for travel;
  • Address history during the past fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last 15 years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth of all siblings;
  • Name 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
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the previous five years

Based on Department of State clarification, the new questions do not constitute an automatic visa denial if the visa application can provide a credible explanation. From the privacy standpoint, applicants could be concerned that the Department of State wants to collect info from the applicants’ social media accounts. The State Department’s notice states: “The collection of social media platforms and identifiers will not be used to deny visas based on applicants’ race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation. … 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.”

It seems that US government intends to collect more info available from social media to identify and scrutinize more the applicants. The Department of State has asked the Office of Management and Budget for emergency review and approval by May 18, 2017. If the new rules are implemented, millions of applicants must be prepared for visa issuance delay, increased chances for administrative processing and backlog in visa appointments because of the lengthier visa interview. Visa applicants should also be prepared to provide the additional details highlighted above as part of both the visa application form and during the visa interview.