Increased Scrutiny Could Lead to Visa Denials and Delays

By Reuben S. Seguritan

March 29, 2017


President Trump and his administration are pushing through with his campaign promise of extreme vetting and increased scrutiny for people applying for visas at US embassies around the world. Hence, visa applicants, whether family-based or employment-based and also tourists, should triple check all of the documents they submit in order to ensure that there will be no problems.


In the diplomatic cable dated March 17, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ordered consular chiefs to create groups of law enforcement and intelligence officials to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.”


Human rights advocates have expressed their concern over this instruction because it could lead to racial profiling and bias against a person’s nationality or religion or name. The focus would no longer be on who actually poses a threat to the United States and the public at large. But rather, on who has the right sounding name and religion to enter the United States.


Immigration lawyers predict that this latest policy could mean severe delays for businesses trying to have conferences or for their employees’ travel to the US as well as families waiting for visas. Furthermore, there is no proof that interviewers at the US embassies around the world would be able to obtain the information necessary to determine whether someone is a national security threat because each visa interview only lasts about five minutes.


Experts have also warned that the strict implementation of the rules and procedures at the US embassies around the world would mean that there will be a lot of denials and extended delays in the processing of visas.


It is interesting to note that the strict implementation of the rules will not be applied to nationals of developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, because they continue to benefit from the visa waiver program of the United States.


Sec. Tillerson sent out diplomatic cables earlier this month but these instructions were later withdrawn because of the Federal court decisions which struck down President Trump’s travel ban on citizens from certain Muslim countries. Another reason was because they were issued without prior approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is responsible for reviewing all agency rules.


In the said instructions, Sec. Tillerson had wanted US embassies to ask for an applicant’s travel history, addresses and work history for 15 years; and all phone numbers, email addresses and social media handles used by the applicant in the past five years.


Sec. Tillerson also wanted a “mandatory social media check” for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State. Critics have noted that this would not be feasible because it would be incredibly time-consuming, need a lot of work, and would definitely result in an enormous backlog of applications.


All applicants for visas at US embassies should therefore read all instructions carefully before filling-out documents and submitting documents. Being careful and precise will mean the difference between a denial and approval of the visa application.