• State Department Orders Greater Scrutiny of Visa Applicants
  • May 10, 2017
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • The State Department has ordered U.S. consulates to increase the screening of visa applicants and restrict the number of visa appointments held each day, according to new agency guidelines.

    Visa officers will conduct more intensive interviews to determine whether visa applicants are eligible for the immigration category they seek. In addition, officers will have more discretion to order additional security checks beyond the regular background checks that all visa applicants undergo.

    The new guidelines apply to all visa applicants, but certain classes of applicant will be subject to even more intensive screening that could include checks of social media accounts. This includes Iraqi nationals and foreign nationals who have been in an ISIS-controlled territory. Additionally, each consulate will have the ability to identify groups of foreign nationals in their applicant population who will be subject to increased scrutiny.

    The new guidelines were issued to comply with a presidential memorandum that orders the Departments of State, Homeland Security and Justice to increase the vetting of applicants for all immigration benefits.

    In conjunction with the new screening guidelines, the State Department is limiting the number of visa interviews for each officer to 120 per day. Fewer appointments will allow consular officers to conduct longer and more intensive interviews with each applicant.

    What This Means for Foreign Nationals and Employers

    Applicants should expect to be questioned closely about all aspects of their visa applications. In the near future, some applicants could be required to provide detailed information about their travel, work and residence history over the preceding 15 years, and phone numbers, email addresses and social media accounts used in the last five years.

    Applicants should also be prepared for the possibility that they will be subjected to extra background and security checks, commonly known as “administrative processing.” These checks can add days or weeks to the process.

    These new processes, and the limits on the number of visa interviews, are likely to cause longer waits for interview appointments, and longer waits for passports with visas to be returned after the interview.