“Extreme Vetting” Expected at End of May

The Department of State (DoS) seeks to move forward with “extreme vetting” measures, asking foreign nationals seeking both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for social media information. The request for additional information from foreigners, which DoS seeks along with the Office of Management and Budget, is expected to take effect at the end of May.

The proposal includes the addition of several questions on visa applications. Besides asking for information on which social media platforms applicants’ use, other information sought on the information includes email addresses and phone numbers used by applicants in the last 5 years.

The updated application also asks for information about any terror activities committed by relatives. Applicants from countries where the practice of female genital mutilation is common receive information about the illegality of the practice in the United States.

The proposal, published in the Federal Registry at the end of March, currently sits in the 60-day comment period, which runs through May 29.

Close to 15 million individuals– around 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants and around 710,000 immigrant visa applicants.

President Donald Trump suggested last year that visitors and immigrants to the United States should be subjected to character assessments through the lens of social media and electronic communication. At the time, civil liberties groups sounded the alarm, alleging the move undercuts basic rights and assumptions around personal privacy.

“But officials say they could identify potential extremists, such as one of the attackers, such as one of the attackers in the December 2015 San Bernadino shooting– who got a visa despite allegedly advocating ‘jihad’ on social media,” according to one published report.

The additional information requested from foreign nationals seeking entry into the country applies to both the DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Form and to the DS-160, Application for Nonimmigrant Visa.

The move by DoS to collect additional information follows the Trump Administration’s sway in generally tightening up immigration practices overall. H-1B visas, used largely by tech companies in recruiting highly-skilled foreign workers, are one category under particular scrutiny. With the changes, the president intends to extend protections to American workers.