State Department Seeks to Extend Extreme Vetting

11/29/2017

Earlier this year the State Department began using a supplemental questionnaire to conduct more intensive vetting of visa applicants. On Monday, the State Department published a notice in the Federal Register that it intends to extend the use of the supplemental questionnaire, originally only authorized for six months, for three years. The public comment period lasts until December 27, 2017.

In its notice, the State Department said the purpose of the supplemental questionnaire is to "resolve questions about an applicant's identity or to vet for terrorism, national security-related, or other visa ineligibilities." It is used "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." Information collected through the supplemental questionnaire includes the following:

• Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel (including domestic 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, children, and current or former spouse(s) or civil/domestic partners;
• Social media platforms and identifiers used during the last five years, and
• Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

The State Department estimates that between May 2017 to October 2, 2017 it asked approximately 25,000 applicants to complete the supplemental questionnaire. Further, the State Department estimates that it will ask 70,500 applicants to do so annually. In its notice, however, the State Department noted that "consular officers are directed not to request user passwords; engage or interact with individual visa applicants on or through social media when conducting assessments of visa eligibility; not to violate or attempt to violate individual privacy settings or controls; and not to use social media or assess an individual's social media presence beyond established Department guidance."

Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of each Consular Officer to decide whether it is appropriate to request the supplemental questionnaire from a visa applicant. While completing the supplemental questionnaire is voluntary, failing to do so could result in the Consular Officer denying the visa application.

Please contact your Goel & Anderson attorney if you have any questions.

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