United States: State Department directs increased security measures to implement Executive Order
The State Department has sent a series of cables to U.S. consulate officials on the implementation of President Donald Trump’s March 6 Executive Order, including a March 17 memo aimed at implementing heightened screening of certain visa applicants.
The State Department sent out four cables over the past two weeks on the implementation of Trump’s Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States, portions of which were blocked in federal court, but portions of which remain in effect. The cables had been protected from public release, but were published in the press Thursday.
Of the four, only one, a cable issued March 17, takes immediate effect. The March 17 cable directs consular posts to take all possible precautions to refuse and send for administrative processing or security clearance cases that might pose security concerns. It also directs diplomatic posts to establish working groups to develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post-applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.
The March 17 cable additionally requires security clearances for all Iraqi nationals who were ever present in areas controlled by ISIS. It requires a “mandatory social media review” for applicants who may have ties to ISIS or have been in areas controlled by the group. The cable limits consular officers generally to no more than 120 interviews per day, a change that could cause backlogs and processing delays.
A separate cable requires persons presenting security concerns to provide additional information to consular officials, though these requirements have been suspended pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget. This is presumably because of the legal requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.
In light of possible OMB approval, however, applicants whose nationality or background may raise security concerns should be prepared to provide additional information, including: (1) travel history over the last 15 years; (2) names of siblings, children and former spouses not already recorded in the DS-160/260 or NIV/IVO case notes; (3) addresses over the last 15 years; (4) prior passport numbers; (5) prior jobs and employers, including brief descriptions if applicable, for the last 15 years; (6) any phone number the applicant has used in the last five years; (7) email addresses and social media handles the applicants has used in the last five years.
One of the four cables, which would have implemented Trump’s revised travel ban, was suspended pending further court action after federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland stopped the travel ban from taking effect last week.
BAL Analysis: The additional screening requirements and the limits on interviews could result in increased administrative processing delays for some applicants and may exacerbate interview appointment backlogs. Applicants who may be flagged for additional screening should be prepared to provide the additional information described above and should plan for the possibility of increased delays in their visa application process.
This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact BerryApplemanLeiden@balglobal.com.
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