New Vetting Procedures for US Visa Applicants

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WESLACO - The U.S. State Department is seeking more information from all U.S. visa applicants.

The new procedures request 15 years’ worth of biographical information, employment history and travel history, along with 5 years of social media handles, all previous passport numbers, emails, and phone numbers of all relatives.

Lionel Perez, an immigration attorney, said because the new procedures are still very new, there are many unknowns about what happens if an applicant fails to provide some of the information requested.

"Would that result in a denial? We don't know. Would that result in a delay? Certainly it will result in a delay," said Perez.

The U.S. State Department could not provide a definitive answer, only saying potential ineligibilities would take place under U.S. Law.

Jose Garcia-Guilling is a student visa holder. He is studying to get his master's degree in creative writing at UTRGV. He worries the new procedures may impact how soon he can obtain an H1B visa. The H1B visa will allow American companies to hire visa holders.

The U.S. State Department stated the collection of additional information from visa applicants would apply to people who need further scrutiny. The State Department estimates the changes will only impact a fraction of the more than 13 million annual visa applicants worldwide.

A State Department official provided the following statement:

National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications.  Every prospective traveler to the United States undergoes extensive security screening.  We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes and to support legitimate travel and immigration to the United States while protecting U.S. citizens.

In accordance with the President’s March 6, 2017 Memorandum on enhancing the screening and vetting of applications for visas, the Department of State has begun collecting additional information from visa applicants worldwide when a consular officer determines that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.

Such visa applicants will be asked to provide additional information, including their social media handles, prior passport numbers, additional information about family members, and a longer history of past travel, employment, and contact information.

We already request contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants.  Collecting additional information from visa applicants whose circumstances suggest a need for further scrutiny strengthens our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.

We estimate these changes affect only a fraction of one percent of the more than 13 million annual visa applicants worldwide.

The Department began implementing this change on May 25. Consular officers will only use this additional information to vet applicants for potential visa ineligibilities under existing U.S. law.  There are no visa ineligibilities under U.S. law on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.


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