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Extreme Vetting: Plan Ahead and Prepare for Possible Delays in Visa Processing

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of State obtained approval to implement a supplemental questionnaire for U.S. visa applicants.  The newly created form, known as a DS-5535, was introduced to ask visa applicants for additional personal information during the visa screening process as part of the Administration’s policy of “extreme vetting” for U.S. visa applicants.  This information includes work and travel history for the past 15 years and information on a visa applicant’s presence on social media platforms. These questions apply to visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.” If a Consular Officer determines that a visa applicant is subject to “extreme vetting,” the individual may be asked the following additional questions during a visa appointment:

  1. Travel history during the last 15 years, including source of funding for travel;
  2. Address history during the last 15 years;
  3. Employment history during the last 15 years;
  4. All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  5. Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  6. Name and dates of birth for all children;
  7. Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  8. Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last 5 years; and
  9. Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last 5 years.

Much of the same biographical information, such as previous travel, residential and work history, is already collected on the DS-160 visa application but for 5 years rather than 15 years. The full criteria for determining who is subject to extreme vetting will vary by consular post. It is estimated that 0.5% of U.S. visa applicants worldwide will be subject to this, based on individual circumstances and information they provide.

Impact of Extreme Vetting on Employers and Employees

We anticipate these enhanced screening techniques will lead to an increase in the likelihood of administrative processing for some visa applicants, which could delay visa issuance for several weeks or months as security checks are completed. We are advising visa applicants and their employers to plan ahead for possible delays in visa processing at U.S. consular posts abroad due to the heightened screening procedures.  These delays can impact visa applicants and travelers from countries other than the six countries listed in the Executive Order imposing a travel ban, which is currently suspended due to ongoing litigation [please see our recent post “5 Things You Should Know About the President’s Executive Order on Immigration” for more information].

Our immigration attorneys are closely monitoring the development and implementation of extreme vetting at consulates worldwide and will provide updates regarding future changes. If you have questions about extreme vetting or other immigration-related issues, please contact anyone in the Immigration Group for assistance.

Janet CheethamJoel PagetAmy Royalty and Marsha Mavunkel are Immigration attorneys at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC.

Janet can be reached at cheetham@ryanlaw.com.
Joel can be reached at paget@ryanlaw.com.
Amy can be reached at royalty@ryanlaw.com.
Marsha can be reached at mavunkel@ryanlaw.com.






This message has been released by the Immigration Group at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC to advise of recent developments in the law. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances. Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC is a full-service law firm located in Seattle, Washington.

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