Scrutiny Ordered for Certain Visa Applicants

March 24, 2017

Memos from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offer a first glimpse of what President Trump’s proposed “extreme vetting” of visa applicants will look like, Reuters and The New York Times reported Thursday. The memos direct consular officials to identify "populations warranting increased scrutiny" and to put applicants from these populations through more rigorous questioning. The memos also direct consular officials to check social media histories for all applicants who have been in areas controlled by the Islamic State.

State Department officials say the changes will likely lead to increases in visa denials and further slow the visa application process. Immigration attorneys also expressed concern about profiling of visa applicants based on religion or national origin.

"What this language effectively does is give the consular posts permission to step away from the focused factors they have spent years developing and revising, and instead broaden the search to large groups based on gross factors such as nationality and religion," Jay Gairson, a Seattle-based immigration attorney, told Reuters.

Trump has said he wants to improve vetting procedures to prevent the entry of terrorists into the United States. An executive order banning entry into the U.S. for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries remains blocked by the courts.

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