The U.S. Department of State (DOS) released a new supplemental visa application (Form DS-5355) for individuals who are deemed by a U.S. consulate to pose heightened security concerns. The form requires select visa applicants to provide, among other things, travel, address, and employment history for the last 15 years. DOS confirms this information will not be requested of all visa applicants. The government estimates the new procedure may affect 65,000 people or 0.5% of U.S. visa applicants worldwide. Although completing the form is voluntary, those who fail to provide the requested information risk having their applications denied.
Specifically, the form asks visa applicants the following information:
- Travel history during the last 15 years (including source of travel funds);
- Passport numbers and country of issuance for all passports ever held by the applicant;
- Names and dates of birth of all children, siblings and current and former spouses;
- Social media platforms and identifiers (or handles) used during the last 5 years;
- Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last 5 years; and
- Address and employment history for the last 15 years.
The form is a response to a March 6, 2017 directive by President Donald J. Trump that requires the DOS and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to implement protocols and procedures to enhance the screening and vetting of applications for visas and immigration benefits. On May 23, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget approved the questionnaire for a six month period with the possibility of an extension.
What These Changes Mean for Visa Applicants
The new procedure may lead to an increase in visa delays and denials, with certain applicants having to prepare more extensively for their visa interviews.
Visa applicants may wish to prepare for the possibility that they be asked these additional questions in the course of their visa interviews. To help minimize delays, we recommend that individuals who may be at risk for higher scrutiny gather travel, passports, residence, employment and social media history before appearing at a visa appointment.
We will continue to monitor the new procedure for U.S. visa applicants closely and carefully.
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