In a series of cables sent in mid-March, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had ordered Consulates abroad to begin preparing for “extreme vetting.” Then, the court in Hawaii v. Trump enjoined the President’s revised travel ban, and Tillerson issued another cable that suspended enforcement on the six countries in the Executive Order: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Secretary also indicated that Consulates could not request information until additional collection was approved by the Office of Management and Budget after a notice-and-comment period.
That notice-and-comment period has come and gone. The Executive Order is still enjoined, but a copy of the new Form DS-5535 has surfaced. The instructions previously issued on the new information collection indicate that because applicants may be asked for 15 years of information concerning addresses, passports, and employment and 5 years of information about phone numbers and social media handles, advance notice would be appropriate. “Posts should determine the best way to communicate this advance notice . . .” and they “may refuse an application under 221(g)” in order to solicit information not previously provided post-interview.
The new extreme vetting known as a “Donkey Security Advisory Opinion” (SAO) will be required for visa applicants who:
- Are between the ages of 16 and 65;
- Are applying with a passport from one of the countries named in the E.O.;
- Are otherwise eligible for the visa;
- Are not applicants for whom the post already is required to submit an SAO; and
- Who qualify for a “case-by-case waiver of the suspension of entry under the E.O. in the consular officer’s discretion.”
Because the instructions issued before the revised travel ban was blocked indicate that the DS-5535 would be used only if the applicant would otherwise be prevented from entering the U.S. because of the travel ban in the revised E.O., it appears that by devising the form, the State Department is preparing for the possibility that the travel ban will be reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, even with the injunction in place, all visa applicants should continue to be prepared for additional scrutiny and the possibility of longer wait times for visa approvals.