By: Michelle Ramos, Law Offices of Ally Bolour, APC
With the Trump Administration banning Muslim country visitors from entering the U.S. people have been worried about the Administration’s next move in regards to immigration. That next move is the approval of a tougher visa vetting process. The Office of Management and Budget approved as a “temporary ‘emergency’ measure in response to President Trump’s March 6 memo mandating enhanced visa screening” a new supplemental questionnaire for those applying for U.S. visas.
The Administration’s recent approval of a tougher visa vetting process will make it harder to obtain a visa. The new process would require U.S. visa applicants to answer a questionnaire of personal information in which they would have to provide social media handles for the last five years and biographical information going back up to 15 years. The questionnaire also asks for information regarding email addresses, phone numbers and prior passport numbers.
Unlike the travel ban, which only affected U.S. visitors from certain Muslim nations, this newly approved vetting process will affect anyone seeking to obtain a U.S. visa. other Middle Eastern countries, Asia, Africa, and Latin American.
Obtaining a U.S. visa is already burdensome, this new visa vetting will only serve to elongate the process even more. This new process will likely serve to deter people from applying for visas for tourism purposes because they are going to be afraid of unintentionally providing wrong information or mistakenly omitting information. Aside from the visa process becoming longer and more strenuous, people will be set off by the fact that government might be infringing in their personal lives when asking for social media information.
The State Department has stated that the tougher vetting process will only apply to those applicants that are considered a threat to national security or those “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related ineligibilities.”  Nevertheless, consular officials have full discretion on who gets the new questionnaire therefore anyone can be subject to the new process. The State Department has also stated that responding to questionnaire is voluntary and not a rationale for visa denial, yet failing to respond can lead to a delay of the visitor’s visa application process. There is also the possibility that people can be denied visas for mistakenly failing to provide information or mistakenly providing the wrong information.