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What are the New Visa Vetting Procedures? What is Extreme Vetting? What is the Form DS-5535 and will it affect my application?

On March 6, 2017, the White House issued a Memorandum which directed the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and others to implement additional protocols and procedures to “ensure the proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, or grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits.” In response to this directive, the Department of State has created an additional form known as the DS-5535 Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants, which requests the following additional information:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funds and details regarding each trip;
  • Address history during the last fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Name and dates of birth for all children
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses or civil/domestic partners
  • Social media platforms and identifiers used during the last five years
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years

Applicants may be required to fill out a DS-5535 and, when possible, provide supporting documentation, if a consular officer determines that the application warrants increased scrutiny. The Department of State has stated that the additional information requested will allow the consular officer to “more rigorously evaluate applications for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”

How does this affect my application?

While the additional information requests may seem like an additional burden at first glance, it is not that likely that you will be requested to fill out a DS-5535. The State Department estimates that less than one percent of all U.S. visa applicants worldwide will be required to fill out the form but this is likely a conservative estimate.  While the Administration has not provided many details of who will be selected, it is likely that applicants will be flagged for past travel (in particular to the 7 countries listed in the travel ban) and other applicants where a security trigger is indicated.  At this time, the Government has only indicated that a consular officer will be focused on “populations warranting increased scrutiny,” based on the individual circumstances and information the applicant provides.

While it is not that likely that your application will be affected by the new form, it is important to note that failure to provide the requested information will delay your case and most likely result in a denial. If you are flagged for additional screening you should take it seriously and it could result in the denial of your visa.  You should consider having all of your responses reviewed by a lawyer and this is not a formality.   While the failure to provide the information (eg. if you cannot remember where you traveled 14 years ago) “does not necessarily result in visa denial,” you must provide a credible explanation as to why you cannot answer a question or provide requested supporting documentation. To that end, an applicant should bear in mind that this additional information may be requested and should be prepared to provide it.

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