Extreme Vetting in the Real World

We’ve heard a lot about “extreme vetting” for visa applicants – for those coming to the United States. It started in March with diplomatic cables sent from DC to Embassies and Consulates around the world. No one was certain what extreme vetting would look like. Visa applicants, especially immigrant visa applicants, submit copious amounts of information, including where they’ve lived since their 16th birthday; supervisor names for all employment – past and present; and secondary school information, including area of study and years in attendance. What more does the U.S. government want?

Plenty, it seems. We just received confirmation from a client who went in for an immigrant visa interview that she’s being asked to provide the following:

  • All email addresses and social media handles used in the last five years;
  • All landline and cell phone numbers used over the past five years; and
  • All passport numbers used; and a list of all countries traveled to (there’s no time limit specified, so does that mean in their entire life?) along with the dates and reason for travel.

They’ve also asked for a lot of repetitive information:

  • Addresses for the past 15 years (only an issue for those over 31 since the DS-260 requires all addresses past age 16);
  • A list of family members with their date of birth, place of birth and current location (the DS-260 currently requires this information for parents, but now DOS wants siblings and past spouse information);
  • All schooling information; and
  • Detailed employment history.

This is separate from the travel ban since anyone from one of the six countries can’t apply for visa. This is for people from the rest of the world who apply for tourist visas, student visas, and even for immigrant visas. You may have heard about the Afghani and Gambian students who were denied visas to participate in a robotics contest in the United States (the Gambian students were later granted visas). They were victims of extreme vetting.

Put yourself in a visa applicant’s shoes. Would you want to be judged by actions of your brother or sister? Would you know all of you previously used phone numbers or your addresses for the past 15 years? People will be denied for having a bad memory and for the actions of others.

I am not questioning the mission of DOS to ensure that the people who are coming to the United States aren’t coming to harm us. But is such an invasion of privacy and creation of more red-tape going to truly keep us safer? Or does it simply keep out well-meaning students, entrepreneurs, artists, and spouses of U.S. citizens?

-Tracie