US may begin seeking detailed history from all visa applicants

The State Department recently announced a plan to require virtually all applicants for U.S. visas to provide more details as part of the vetting and approval process. Only certain official and diplomatic visa applicants would be exempt.

The proposal was published in the Federal Register, where the government publishes proposed and approved regulations. The public is invited to comment on the proposal until May 29. After the comment period is closed and the comments have been addressed, the Office of Management and Budget will approve or deny the rule change.

According to the Associated Press, all applicants for either immigrant or nonimmigrant visas will be required to provide:

  • Five years’ worth of account names for social media platforms specified on the visa application (applicants will be invited to provide the same information about unspecified social media platforms)
  • A five-year phone number and email address history
  • Five years of international travel history
  • Their deportation history
  • Information about whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities

In the past, this level of detail has only been required of people the State Department had identified as requiring special screening, such as people who had traveled in areas with heavy activity by terrorist organizations. That affected approximately 65,000 people each year.

If the new rule is passed, the new requirements would affect about 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and around 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants. They would apply to all sorts of visitors and immigrants, including those coming to the U.S. for short-term business purposes, education and tourism.

Naturally, requiring more detailed information on some 15 million visa applications each year will slow down the vetting process. Not only will applications be more complex and time-consuming to fill out, but also consular officials will spend more time reviewing and checking the information. It is unclear, however, how much extra time and resources the new information will require.

If you are planning on visiting or immigrating to the U.S., you should make your plans early and expect processing delays. If you have any questions about how to apply for a U.S. visa or which visa is for you, talk to an immigration law attorney.