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US to make tougher visa rules from May 18th

Know your travel history during the last 15 years, including source of funding for travel? And your address history and employment history over the same time? How about your social media platforms and handles, and all phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years?

These are some of the questions that the US State Department has proposed asking US visa applicants warranting extra scrutiny, according to a notification published in the Federal Register on Thursday.

Not everyone will face the additional questioning. Part of the “extreme vetting” that President Donald Trump has said is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks and the questions would apply to 65,000 people per year, or about 0.5 percent of US visa applicants worldwide, the State Department has estimated.

The enhanced scrutiny, which is expected to kick in on May 18 after a period inviting public comment, also does not target nationals of any particular countries, but is widely and primarily expected to case potentially radicalized youth from, or visiting, troubled areas. This, even as the administration affirms that “in accordance with existing authorities, visas may not be denied on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.”

“Regarding travel history, applicants may be requested to provide details of their international or domestic (within their country of nationality) travel, if it appears to the consular officer that the applicant has been in an area while the area was under the operational control of a terrorist organization,” the notification states.

It adds that consular posts worldwide regularly engage with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny, suggesting that local agencies in host countries will play a key role in identifying those warranting additional scrutiny.

Explaining the methodology to be adopted, the Federal notification says consular officers at visa-adjudicating posts worldwide will ask the proposed additional questions to resolve an applicant’s identity or to vet for terrorism or other national security related visa ineligibilities “when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny.”


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