US asks nations to provide more traveler data or face sanctions

WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department will require all nations to provide extensive data to help it vet visa applicants and determine whether a traveler poses a terrorist threat, according to a cable obtained by Reuters.

Countries that fail to comply with the new protocols or take steps to do so within 50 days could face travel sanctions.

The cable, sent to all U.S. diplomatic posts on Wednesday, is a summary of a worldwide review of vetting procedures that was required under U.S. President Donald Trump's revised March 6 executive order that temporarily banned U.S. travel by most citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries.

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French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte and U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania attend a concert at the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Charisius,Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump are seen at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to Melania Trump during the official dinner at the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kay Nietfeld,Pool
US First Lady Melania Trump arrives to attend the partners' programme at the city hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017. Leaders of the world's top economies gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / AXEL SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to Melania Trump during the official dinner at the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kay Nietfeld,Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump are seen at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
(L-R) Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz, US First Lady Melania Trump, the husband of the German Chancellor Joachim Sauer and US President Donald Trump stand together after a family photo of the participants of the G20 summit and their spouses prior a concert at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7, 2017. REUTERS/LUDOVIC MARIN/Pool
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with U.S. First Lady Melania Trump during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017 Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump attend a concert at the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
Hamburg's mayor Olaf Scholz (L) greets US First Lady Melania Trump as she arrives to attend the partners' programme at the city hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017. Leaders of the world's top economies gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / AXEL SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump attend a concert at the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kay Nietfeld,Pool
Hamburg's mayor Olaf Scholz (L) talks to US First Lady Melania Trump (C), wife of the Argentinia's President Juliana Awada (2ndR) and the wife of Canada's Prime Minister Sophie Gregoire (R) and other partners of G20 participants as they attend the partners' programme at the city hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / AXEL SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump board Air Force One prior to departure from Hamburg Airport in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017, following the G20 Summit. World leaders made concessions on trade and climate language to Donald Trump Saturday at the end of the most fractious and riot-hit G20 summit ever, in exchange for preserving a fragile unity of the club of major industrialised and emerging economies. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
HAMBURG, GERMANY - JULY 08: (L-R) Melania Trump, wife of US President Donald Trump, Joachim Sauer, husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, wife of the South African President during the partner program of G20 summit on the second day of the G20 summit at Hamburg Town Hall on July 8, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. Leaders of the G20 group of nations are meeting for the July 7-8 summit. Topics high on the agenda for the summit include climate policy and development programs for African economies. (Photo by Friedemann Vogel - Pool/Getty Images)
Hamburg's mayor Olaf Scholz (L) talks to US First Lady Melania Trump (C) and other partners of G20 participants as they attend the partners' programme at the city hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017. Leaders of the world's top economies gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / AXEL SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
US First Lady Melania Trump (C) talks to the wife of Canada's Prime Minister Sophie Gregoire (R) and the wife of the Argentinia's President Juliana Awada as they attend the partners' programme at the city hall during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / AXEL SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
HAMBURG, GERMANY - JULY 07: (RUSSIA OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and his wife Melania Trump (R) arrive to the Elbphilharmone for the dinner during the G20 Summit on July,7,2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
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The memo lays out a series of standards the United States will require of other countries, including that they issue, or have active plans to issue, electronic passports and regularly report lost and stolen passports to INTERPOL.

It also directs nations to provide "any other identity information" requested by Washington for U.S. visa applicants, including biometric or biographic details.

The cable sets out requirements for countries to provide data on individuals it knows or has grounds to believe are terrorists as well as criminal record information.

Further, countries are asked not to block the transfer of information about U.S.-bound travelers to the U.S. government and not to designate people for travel watchlists based solely on their political or religious beliefs.

"This is the first time that the U.S. Government is setting standards for the information that is required from all countries specifically in support of immigration and traveler vetting," the cable said.

The cable can be read here: (http://reut.rs/2untHTl).

The new requirements are the latest in a series of steps the Trump administration says it is taking to better protect the United States from terrorist attack.

However, former officials said much of the information sought is routinely shared between countries, including examples of passports and additional details about particular travelers that may present security concerns.

Some U.S. allies may worry about privacy protections if Washington is seen as seeking information beyond what is already shared, said John Sandweg, a former senior Homeland Security Department official now with the firm Frontier Solutions.

"I don't think you can ignore the political aspects of the unpopularity of the current administration. That puts political pressure to stand up to the administration," he said.

The cable lays out risk factors the U.S. government will consider when evaluating a country. Some of these are controversial and could be difficult for countries to prove to U.S. satisfaction, including ensuring "that they are not and do not have the potential to become a terrorist safe haven."

Countries are also expected to agree to take back citizens ordered removed from the United States.

If they do not provide the information requested, or come up with an adequate plan to, countries could end up on a list to be submitted to Trump for possible sanction, including barring "categories" of their citizens from entering the United States.

The real worries for countries may not come until the results of this review are known, said Leon Rodriguez, the former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"Once they start making decisions I think that is where there is going to be a lot of anxiety," he said, saying delays in visa processing for nations that do not pose much of a threat could start to hurt "ordinary business and personal travel."

The most controversial of Trump's immigration-related moves are two executive orders, challenged in federal court, which impose a temporary ban on travel to the United States for most citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

While the orders were initially blocked from being enforced, the Supreme Court on June 26 allowed the ban to go into effect for people from the six nations with no strong ties to the United States.

The cable requires countries to act quickly, but stressed that the United States would work with foreign nations to assess if they meet the standards and, if not, to come up with a plan to help them do so.

The cable asks that U.S. diplomats "underscore that while it is not our goal to impose a ban on immigration benefits, including visas, for citizens of any country, these standards are designed to mitigate risk, and failure to make progress could lead to security measures by the USG, including a presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of certain categories of foreign nationals of non-compliant countries."

The cable says the U.S. government has made a preliminary determination that some countries do not meet the new standards and that others are "at risk" of not meeting them. It does not name these, listing them in a separate, classified cable.

The State Department declined comment on the cable, saying it would not discuss internal communications.

"The U.S. government's national security screening and vetting procedures for visitors are constantly reviewed and refined to improve security and more effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the United States," said a U.S. State Department official on condition of anonymity. (Additional reporting by Julia Ainsley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Sue Horton, Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)

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