More on “Extreme Vetting”
President Trump directed the Secretary of State to implement additional screening and vetting standards for all visa applicants. As a result of this directive, the Department of State has proposed a requirement that visa applicants provide much more detailed information about their families, social media history, family members, and address and employment history. This will be used to “more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.” The new form would require visa applicants to provide the following information:
- 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.
Most of this information is already collected on visa applications but for a shorter time period, e.g. 5 years rather than 15 years. Requests for names and dates of birth of siblings and, for some applicants, children are new. The request for social media identifiers and associated platforms is also new.
There is concern that the request for additional information places excessive burdens on applicants and could lead to unwarranted denials and misrepresentation findings. Furthermore, the request for social media platforms and identifiers for the last 5 years is an open-ended inquiry which could lead many individuals to self-censor or to delete their accounts. Any review of social media profiles will, by necessity, not be limited to the applicant, but would likely extend to U.S. friends, relatives, and business associates. Moreover, the American Immigration Lawyers Association opines that the meaning of content and connections on social media is idiosyncratic and context dependent and so innocent communications could easily be misconstrued as nefarious and result in unwarranted denials with associated personal and business consequences.