To evaluate terrorism or national security-related ineligibilities of visa applicants, the Department of State has requested emergency review and public comment on a new rule on the collection of additional information from some visa applicants.
The proposed rule would “institutionalize” and expand Secretary Rex Tillerson’s “extreme vetting” directive.
The new or expanded areas of inquiry in the proposal are:
- 15 years of travel history (including domestic travel in the country of nationality if it was under control of terrorist organizations) and sources of funding for travel;
- 15 years of address history;
- 15 years of employment history;
- All passport numbers and country of issuance;
- Names and dates of birth of siblings, children, and current and former spouses or civil or domestic partners;
- 5 years of social media platforms and identifiers; and
- 5 years of phone numbers and email addresses.
Requests would be sent by email or delivered in writing or orally during the visa interview. The proposed rule states:
- Consular officers will not request user passwords or “attempt to subvert privacy controls” on social media platforms;
- Data collection will not be used to discriminate or deny visas “based on applicants’ race, religion, ethnicity, national original, political views, gender or sexual orientation”; and
- Additional requests will likely affect only 0.5% or approximately 65,000 visa applications annually.
Although DOS has estimated the number of applicants who will be affected by the proposed rule, no particular subsets of applicants are identified. Consular officers will have the discretion to decide, based upon “the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of the visa application, or responses in a visa interview [that] indicate a need for greater scrutiny.” They also will have the discretion to grant visas even if all of the requested information cannot be supplied upon determining that the applicant has a “credible explanation” for the failure and that there is enough other information to make a decision about eligibility.