Can you do it? It’s probably easy for some readers, and very difficult for others (like me). These are some of the questions certain foreign nationals will have to answer soon to get a visa to the U.S. On March 15 Trump & Co. issued a cable to foreign consulates or “posts” that issue visas requiring “heightened scrutiny” of applicants. Trump demanded this throughout his campaign – whether or not the facts justify it. Some of these requirements are on hold by the administration’s own decisions – not any court orders – for now. Others are not.
All posts are to convene their law enforcement and intelligence community partners to develop a list of criteria identifying applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny. Then they are to attempt to identify individuals within these populations and ask them more detailed questions including:
- Applicant’s travel history over the last 15 years;
- Names of any siblings/children/former spouses not recorded in their application or other notes;
- Applicant’s addresses during the last 15 years, if different from the applicant’s current address;
- Applicant’s prior passport numbers;
- Applicant’s prior occupation(s) and employers (plus a brief description if applicable) looking back 15 years;
- All phone numbers used by the applicant in the last five years;
- All email addresses and social media handles used by the applicant in the last five years.
The cables emphasize “that all visa decisions are national security decisions.” The consulates should also order additional security checks which can take weeks, months and sometimes years to complete. They also must order mandatory social media checks for applicants present in a territory at the time it was controlled by ISIS, and consular managers must review all immigrant visas (which lead to green cards) to be issued to applicants applying with a passport from of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen.
The order also stipulates an officer should not interview more than 120 applicants per day. You may think that’s a lot. It is! It allows for 4-5 minutes average time on each applicants. Currently some officers interview more than 120 applicants per day, some as many as 150. While this quota makes sense as 4-5 minutes is hardly enough, it does mean the wait times for visas will increase.
Many of these more onerous requirements will affect the same persons Trump tried to target in his January 25, 2017 “Muslim ban” and litigation; the 7 countries above are the same 7 countries targeted in the first travel ban.Trump is trying to persuade Americans that potential terrorists are pouring into the U.S. with no controls. Show us the facts please; it’s just not true. From my experience working with applicants abroad, U.S. visas are already difficult to get. Instead, it appears he’s using backdoor methods to achieve the same results as the previous executive orders, which the courts have repeatedly put on hold.