Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Made Manifest in State Department Proposal

In a move reflecting the Trump administration’s desire to conduct “extreme vetting” of noncitizens traveling to the United States, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a proposal yesterday seeking to render questioning of certain visa applicants more rigorous and intrusive. DOS submitted the proposed list of new criteria and questions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), asking OMB for emergency review and approval of the guidelines by May 18, for a validity period spanning six months thereafter.

Key Aspects of the Proposal

Among the most notable of the proposed screening procedures involves probing visa applicants’ social media accounts, including even defunct profiles. The proposal additionally cites the need to demand a broad spectrum of personal information—ranging from prior passport numbers, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers to five years’ worth of social media activity and 15 years of biographical data—from applicants who “warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism.”

According to the public document, DOS is also asking to empower consular officers to request additional travel dates of applicants who, as determined by individual officers, have traveled in the past to areas “under the operational control of a terrorist organization.” DOS estimated that the additional screening procedures would affect roughly 65,000 people annually, and amount to about an extra hour of processing per applicant.

The list below comprises the information DOS would like authorization to obtain from flagged visa applicants:

  • Destinations of travel over the last 15 years
  • Funding for travel over the last 15 years
  • Phone numbers and e-mail addresses used over the last five years
  • Social media accounts used during the last five years, the passwords for which will not be requested
  • Employment over the last 15 years
  • Residences over the last 15 years
  • All passport numbers held
  • Names and birthdates of all siblings, children, and current and former spouses (or civil or domestic partners)

As we informed our readers in an article last month, the current administration’s goal of demanding more exacting requirements of certain noncitizens is proceeding in spite of judicial obstacles to implementation of President Trump’s travel bans. In fact, this most recent policy proposal stems from the president’s Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry, a portion of which instructed federal agencies to review and revise extant vetting procedures. This component of the revised travel ban was not enjoined.

Our Thoughts

Assuming OMB approves DOS’s request, and barring any consequent court challenges, the enhanced screening guidelines will be mandatory for affected applicants. In order to minimize delays in visa processing, we recommend applicants be prepared well in advance to comply with the more stringent screening. Accordingly, applicants should work to collect the additional information specified ahead of their interviews, and they should expect interviews to last longer. Finally, applicants flagged for additional screening should take into account and plan for possible delays in obtaining visas.

This is a developing news story, and as more information becomes available, updates will be published on our news section.

Former U.S. Consular officer, Attorney Sechyi Laiu joined Zhang & Associates, P.C. on June 26, 2017

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu specializes on Consular Processing cases and business development. Attorney Laiu also focuses on TN visas, E visas, CBP administrative proceedings (monetary confiscation, deferred inspection), and overseas financial compliance.

Prior to joining Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu worked for the U.S. Department of State as a Chinese and Portuguese speaking diplomat. As a consular-coned officer who served in Vancouver (Canada), Shenyang (P.R. China), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Attorney Laiu processed over 30,000 visa cases and worked in every section of Consular Affairs overseas (Fraud Prevention Unit, Immigrant Visas, Non-Immigrant Visas, and American Citizen Services).

He will use his experience and expertise to deliver the highest quality of service to our clients.

Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients nationwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled thousands of immigration cases.

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high-quality immigration and non-immigration visa services. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, PERM, and I-485 cases. In the past twenty years, we have successfully helped thousands of clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang ( for a free evaluation.

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