Getting to No
On 4 May 2017, the Trump administration published a notice in the Federal Register announcing its intentions to expand data collection associated with visa applications from certain individuals "to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities."
On 25 May, consulates began implementing the program.
The expanded data collection includes the following:
- Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
- Address history during the last fifteen years;
- Employment history during the last fifteen years;
- All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
- Names and dates of birth for 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 last five years.
Who is actually subject to extreme vetting? The guidance is vague:
"Department of State consular officers at visa-adjudicating posts worldwide will ask the proposed additional questions to resolve an applicant's identity or to vet for terrorism or other national security related visa ineligibilities when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny."
You can read the Federal Register notice here:
The State Department has introduced a new form, DS-5535, for the data collection. The form is not currently available from the state.gov website, but the US Embassy in Turkey has posted it here:
Among the more troublesome aspects of the expanded collection is the effective codification of the practice of accessing individual's social media accounts. For additional perspective, take a look at this article in the Register: Social Media Vetting for US Visas Goes Live
Although the State Department estimates the average time to complete the DS-5535 at 60 minutes, the historic nature of the requested information (e.g. all past passport numbers) suggests that this is unrealistic. Completion of the form is voluntary, but one would expect that failure to provide the information would lead to denial of the visa application.
On the bright side, the measure is characterised as temporary and the form expires on 30 November 2017.