Following the injunction on enforcement of President Trump’s revised travel ban, United States Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson directed all U.S. consular posts to broadly increase scrutiny of visa applicants. Additionally, in the wake of the attack in London on March 22, 2017, applicants may anticipate an additional level of scrutiny in the visa application process, not only in London but at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. Applicants should also expect increased scrutiny and potential delays in connection with U.K. immigration and other global immigration matters through foreign consulates located in the United Kingdom.
Trump Administration Directs Stricter Vetting of Visa Applicants & Mandatory Social Media Checks
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued Cable 2584 on March 17th which directs U.S. Consular Officers to increase scrutiny of many visa applications and the applicants themselves for security threats. Consular Officers are expected to ask more detailed questions about the applicants’ background. Officers also are required to refer applicants to the Fraud Prevention Unit for mandatory social media history checks if applicants were present in an area at the time it was controlled by ISIS or if the officer determines that an applicant may have ties to ISIS or other terrorist groups. Foster anticipates stricter vetting of applicants who have ever traveled to the seven (7) countries subject to the original travel ban, specifically nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya, as well as any other countries where the Islamic State has claimed or controlled territory now and in the past.
Following the Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) enjoining enforcement of Trump’s first and second revised travel bans, this diplomatic cable will likely cause a slowdown in visa issuance and an increase in visa denials. When consular officers have doubt regarding admissibility, applicants should expect denial.
Increased Scrutiny by CBP of ESTA Travelers
At ports of entry on arrival to the United States, Foster recently noted increased scrutiny by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for frequent ESTA business travelers. Successful visa issuance at the U.S. Consulate is not a guarantee of future admission to the United States. Applicants are reminded that each visit to the United States must comply with the requirements of the visa classification, and the burden is always on the applicant to establish admissibility and eligibility for admission in the particular visa category.
Anticipated Impact of the London Attack
The U.S. Embassy in London may take additional precautions in reviewing visa applications in the wake of this week’s London attack. Applicants may face increased security at the Embassy, delays in appointment scheduling, scrutiny in reviewing visa applications, and longer timeframes for adjudication of visa applications. The impact of an international terrorist attack may generally be seen to result in increased scrutiny at all U.S. Consulates abroad in reviewing visa applications filed by foreign nationals and at U.S. ports of entry by CBP in determining whether to admit foreign nationals. Foster reported a similar response to terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California, which is to anticipate Increased Scrutiny on Travel Documents May Delay or Disrupt International Travel.
Other foreign consular posts in the United Kingdom may also increase security and scrutiny of applicants at this time, which in turn may result in delays both in appointment scheduling and review of visa applications. The U.K. Home Office, the government agency responsible for U.K. immigration matters, may similarly direct increased security and further scrutiny of foreign nationals who apply for visas or seek admission to the United Kingdom.
Before You Apply
Applicants should carefully review their qualifications with their Foster attorney before applying for a visa at a U.S. consular post abroad. Applicants with doubtful cases or flexible travel schedules might wish to delay their travel plans. Applicants should work closely with immigration counsel to ensure the strongest application possible that includes all required supporting documents and information.
As always, Foster attorneys are available to answer specific visa application and travel-related questions and provide additional information regarding the requirements for international travel. Foster will continue to monitor the impact of, and reaction to, the London terrorist attack and will provide updates as they become available via Foster’s website at www.fosterglobal.com and via future Immigration Updates©.