DOS Proposes Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants with Security Concerns

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a notice in the Federal Register on May 4, 2017, requesting approval and public comments for proposed information to be gathered from visa applicants identified as requiring additional security-related scrutiny. The proposed questions both expand on information already collected in the DS-160 visa application, like siblings and prior addresses, and request new information, such as social media usernames. The DOS claims that the new questions will apply only to a relatively small subset of visa applicants.

Background: “Extreme Vetting”

Throughout the presidential campaign and the early days of the administration, President Trump and his subordinates have proposed “extreme vetting” of visa applicants and foreign nationals visiting the United States. Based on an executive order issued by the President, the DOS issued a series of cables instructing consular officers to increase scrutiny of all visa applicants for potential ineligibilities, including for security reasons. Embassies and consulates abroad were also ordered to identify populations in their respective countries that warrant additional examination for security reasons. More information on these cables is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, DOS Guidance to Consular Officers after Trump Order Signals Heightened Scrutiny of Visa Applicants (23.Mar.2017).

Proposed Questions

In the notice, the DOS identifies the following information to be gathered from visa applicants who require additional security-related scrutiny:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel
  • 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 or domestic partners
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years
  • Phone numbers and eMail addresses used during the last five years

Some of these questions merely expand the timeframe for questions already asked on the DS-160, such as employment and travel history. Others, like those regarding family members, expand the scope of existing questions. Questions regarding social media usernames, and eMail addresses, however, are new.

Who Will Be Affected?

According to the notice, the DOS estimates that only a small number of visa applicants – 0.5 percent, or approximately 65,000 individuals per year – will be affected. These applicants will present a “threat profile” that leads the consular officer to believe the additional scrutiny is warranted. The DOS claims that such a “threat profile” will not be based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.


The new questions proposed by the DOS indicate that additional screening of visa applicants is a priority under the Trump Administration, including examination of family members, travel history, and social media use. It remains to be seen how this additional screening will affect visa applicants and visa adjudications in practice.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.