Trump Extreme US visa vetting could affect some H1B and L1 visa applicants
US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday, June 4 posting an ominous tweet stating “we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the US in order to keep our country safe.” Trump used the phrase ‘extreme vetting’ throughout his presidential campaign, but until now, it had never been defined.
Now, it’s understood that ‘extreme vetting’ applies to a wide range of people wishing entry to the US, including those entering for work related reasons or for tourism. Meanwhile, some of those wishing entry to the US can expect their social media accounts to be heavily scrutinised. Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’ regime comes as he attempts to reinstate the Muslim travel ban.
Some US visa applicants face having to fill out a new form – DS-5535 – which asks them to detail 5 years’ worth of social media accounts and email addresses. The form also requests 15 years of employment history and residencies.
Problematic for some H1B and L1 visa holders
However, the supplemental questionnaire could prove problematic for H1B and L1 visa applicants, adding to already long waiting times. The DS-5535 form, which was secretly approved by government agencies in May, looks to be the first step of the President’s ‘extreme vetting’ era. However, the form does expire in November. It is hoped that it will actually be the case that this form will not be used that often.
Meanwhile, a State Department representative said: “Immigration officials will only seek additional information should they decide that further details are required to confirm identity or carry out more stringent national security checks.”
The introduction of ‘extreme vetting’ has sparked fears that it could be very subjective, with the process digging into a number of records that applicants will likely have to provide, such as travel history. Then there is the issue of who will be conducting the review.
US Visa Questionnaire completion is ‘voluntary’
While it’s understood that the disclosure of information is voluntary, the form states: “Failure to provide this information may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application.”
However, US immigration experts say that only a small proportion of the millions of US visa applications submitted every year will be subject to a request for further information. They did concede that the form would hit H1B and L1 visa applicants hardest given President Trump’s hardline stance on employment-based immigration.
Employers would also suffer as a result of delays to visa applications for potential employees as it will lead to a backlog in projects and cause uncertainty around whether they would need to hire someone else.
Muslim travel ban
Prior to the approval of the questionnaire, US visa applicants from Muslim-majority nations were warned that their applications could be subject to delays. The supplemental questionnaire has been labelled a ‘workaround’, given that the Trump administration has only been partially successful in its attempts to implement a Muslim travel ban.
Commentators are concerned that Trump’s policies and continued rhetoric will deter people from coming to the US. Meanwhile, in a letter sent to the State Department in May, more than 50 academic groups slammed the proposed ‘extreme vetting’ regime.
The letter stated that it would ‘fuel uncertainties and confusion for students and researchers considering travel to the US.’ Nevertheless, the protocol is in place and a number of US visa applications have already been subjected to requests for further information. Worryingly, it’s understood that the reasons for the requests are subjective.
US Visa information, help, and advice
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