State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson has directed all consular chiefs to determine which populations of visa applicants should be subject to additional “extreme” vetting.  The March 15 direction is in response to President Donald Trump’s March 6 “Travel Ban” Executive Order and Presidential Memorandum on “extreme vetting.” The Memo directed the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to put appropriate protocols and procedures in place and “vigorously enforce all existing grounds of inadmissibility.”

Tillerson suggested the following new areas of inquiry:

  • 15 years of travel history;
  • 15 years of address and work history;
  • 5 years of phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles; and
  • Names of siblings, children, or former spouses not listed elsewhere on immigration applications.

Later on March 15, the U.S. District Court in Hawaii blocked the newly revised EO.  On March 16, the U.S. District Court in Maryland, in a less sweeping order, also enjoined the 90-day travel ban on individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Consular officials subsequently were notified that “extreme vetting” would have to be suspended for visa applicants from the six countries in the travel ban.

Oddly, this means that only visa applicants from countries that have not been targeted by the new EO could be subject to “extreme vetting” and additional delays. The new vetting procedures will not directly affect individuals from countries eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, but applicants from Iraq, no longer included in the travel ban, could be subjected to “extreme vetting.”

Trump has stated that he would appeal the rulings of both the Hawaii and the Maryland District Courts. The government’s first step was to seek clarification of the Hawaii court’s ruling, basically asking it to bring its injunction in line with the Maryland court’s ruling – perhaps contemplating a consolidated appeal strategy. The Hawaii court refused. Meanwhile, the government has filed an appeal of the Maryland court’s ruling in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Final briefs on the appeal will be due on April 5, with a hearing to follow.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available.