By Kaitlyn Garcia, J.D. | Immigration Attorney | Houston, Texas
The Online Application for Nonimmigrant Visa (DS-160) is used to collect biographical information from all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa. The consular officer uses the information collected in the DS-160 to determine the applicant's eligibility for a visa.
A notice was posted by the U.S. Department of State proposing new requirements of all nonimmigrant visa applicants completing the DS-160. The proposal, "60-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application for Nonimmigrant Visa" can be found here in the federal registrar and is open for the public at large to submit comments to the proposal. Any member of the public may submit comments on the proposal until May 29, 2018.
Proposed changes to the DS-160 seeks "extreme vetting" of visa applicants:
The proposal seeks to require all visa applicants to submit a 5 year history of certain social media platform profiles. In addition, a 5 year history of contact information (emails and telephone numbers used) will be required. Information on international travel in the last 5 years will be asked for, in addition to any history or family history of terrorism.
The State Department will collect this information from visa applicants for identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards. Diplomatic and official visa applicants will be exempted from the requirements.
Free Speech and Privacy Concerns:
Many are worried that the changes invade the free speech and privacy rights of visa applicants and also their U.S. Citizen friends, families, and professional peers.
Changes really necessary to protect the national security?
The State Department takes the position that the proposed changes seek to protect the national security of the United States - to safeguard to protect against terrorism most specifically. The new proposed changes to the DS-160 is aligned with the current Administration's previous 2017 moves in protecting national security such as the travel ban executive order. The big question: is asking every single visa applicant their 5 year twitter handle history really necessary to keep Americans safe against terrorism? How far is too far?
Comments and thoughts on this topic are welcome.