Trump administration moves to make tougher US visa vetting permanent

The Trump administration moved on Thursday to make permanent a new questionnaire that asks some U.S. visa applicants to provide their social media handles and detailed biographical and travel history, according to a public notice.

The questionnaire was rolled out in May as part of an effort to tighten vetting of would-be visitors to the United States, and asks for all prior passport numbers, five years' worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history.

A State Department official declined to provide data on how many times the form had been used or which nationalities had been asked to fill it out since May, only stating that it estimates 65,000 visa applicants per year "will present a threat profile" that warrants the extra screening.

Click through images of Donald Trump in New Hampshire:

16 PHOTOS
Donald Trump in New Hampshire
See Gallery
Donald Trump in New Hampshire
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump rallies with supporters at an arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters stand for the national anthem as they gather to rally with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at an arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (2nd R), flanked by vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (L), kisses his daughter Ivanka Trump after she spoke for him at a rally with supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A toddler holds a book by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as supporters gather for the start of a rally with him at a car dealership in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S. October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. (L) and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (C) rally with supporters at an arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters bow their heads in prayer before the start of a rally with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a car dealership in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S. October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
FILE PHOTO: Then U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) welcomes his son Donald Trump Jr. to the stage at one of the New England Council's "Politics and Eggs' breakfasts in Manchester, New Hampshire November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files
Supporters cheer during a campaign rally by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (L) rally with supporters at an arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters gather to rally with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at an arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump takes the satge for a rally at a car dealership in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S. October 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives at a campaign town hall event in Sandown, New Hampshire, U.S., October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during his victory speech as his wife Melania, looks on at his 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary night rally in Manchester, New Hampshire February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on his plane to rally with supporters, in a town nearby, at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign town hall meeting outside a closed Osram Sylvania manufacturing facility in Manchester, New Hampshire June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

President Donald Trump ran for office in 2016 pledging to crack down on illegal immigration for security reasons, and has called for "extreme vetting" of foreigners entering the United States. On Wednesday, he threw his support behind a bill that would cut legal immigration to the United States by 50 percent over 10 years.

The Office of Management and Budget, which must approve most new federal requests of information from the public, initially approved the form on an "emergency" basis, which allowed its use for six months rather than the usual three years.

The State Department published a notice in the Federal Register on Thursday seeking to use the form for the next three years. The public has 60 days to comment on the request. (See: http://bit.ly/2uZNXJD)

The questions are meant to "more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism, national security-related, or other visa ineligibilities," the notice said.

While the questions are voluntary, the form says failure to provide the information may delay or prevent the processing of a visa application.

Trump ordered a temporary travel ban in March on citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. After months of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court in June allowed the travel ban to go forward with a limited scope.

The form does not target any particular nationality.

Seyed Ali Sepehr, who runs an immigration consultancy in California serving Iranian clients applying for U.S. visas, said that since late June, all of his clients who have been referred for extra security checks have also been asked to fill out the new form.

Kiyanoush Razaghi, an immigration attorney based in Maryland, said he knows of Iraqis, Libyans and Iranians who have been asked to fill out the form.

Immigration attorney Steve Pattison said one of his clients, who is not from one of the six travel ban countries, had been asked to fill out the new form when applying for a visitor visa, indicating that consular officers are using it broadly.

"It could be that everyone is missing another consequence of the use of the form – its deployment in a far wider sense to cover all sorts of individuals," Pattison said.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; editing by Sue Horton and Grant McCool)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.