Published: Sat, March 25, 2017
National | By Miranda Cannon

Scrutiny Ordered for Certain Visa Applicants

The guidance was sent in a March 17 cable to all usa diplomatic missions to help American officials satisfy President Donald Trump's memorandum for enhanced vetting of visa applicants.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered the "mandatory social media check" in four memos sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks. According to Reuters, they provide details into a revised screening process that President Donald Trump has described as "extreme vetting".

According to the Associated Press, the instructions also told consular officials to draw up criteria for "population sets" that would need extra visa scrutiny before being allowed to travel to the United States.

"These measures could provide license for discrimination based on national origin and religion", the human rights group said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The US Embassy staff has to scrutinise an extensive pool of applicants to determine whether they are security risks to the United States, Tillerson stated in the cables sent from March 10 and March 17.

The cables, published by Reuters on Thursday, revealed specific policies that legal challenges have forced the Trump administration to withdraw, as well as others left in place that expand consular scrutiny.

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His talks in Ankara come as the USA -led coalition steps up its military campaign against Islamic State around the Syrian city of Raqqa. After a court blocked the effort, a second executive order removed Iraq from the travel ban.

The official did say that "the USA government's national security-focused visitor screening and vetting procedures are created to effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the United States", adding that "we welcome this opportunity to review and improve our systems and procedures".

Two of the cables seem to deprioritize the speed of processing, instructing embassies to restrict the number of daily visa interviews even while acknowledging it could cause visa backlogs to rise.

Among those warranting deepened scrutiny are applicants who have ever been "present in an ISIS-controlled territory".

Chen criticised the Tillerson's orders by asking how a single interviewer can improve security for the visa process if he takes 120 interviews every day and spend five minutes on each one of them.

The 15 March cable suggests questions should include an applicant's travel history, addresses, and work history for 15 years, and all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles used in the past 5 years.

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