In instructions cabled to US missions around the world recently, including those in India most definitely, secretary of state Rex Tillerson has ordered tougher screening of selected visa applicants, rolling out elements of “extreme vetting” that had been promised by President Donald Trump both prior to and after his election.
The instructions required security personnel at each mission to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post application populations warranting increased scrutiny” and then ask applicants from these sets specified questions during their visa interviews: about their travel history over the past 15 years, their passports for the same period, their phone numbers, home addresses, employment history, all their email and social media IDs and, lastly, names of children, siblings and ex-spouses.
These population groups marked for extreme vetting will vary from country to country, as the secretary of state’s cables left that determination to be made by US law enforcement and intelligence officials at their respective missions.
The rules are to apply to applicants in all but 38 countries covered by the visa waiver program that include almost all of Europe and allies such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, according to multiple news reports.
The president had promised to tighten scrutiny of visa applicants to keep terrorists, or “bad dudes” as he has called them, out of the United States, reeling back an extreme position he took earlier proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the country.
Some of these cables, as internal diplomatic communications are called, were about implementing President Trump’s executive order temporarily freezing new visas for citizens of six Muslim-majority nation, but were rescinded because of court orders.
“Consular officers should not hesitate to refuse any case presenting security concerns,” Tillerson wrote in one of the cables, adding, “all visa decisions are national security decisions.”
Chirag Patel, an immigration lawyer in Maryland, said these new instructions are bound to make entry into the United States more difficult, adding, it, entry, was “Already pretty bad. Could/Will get worse.”
Earlier this week, the Trump administration imposed new restrictions on electronic
devices carried by travelers coming to the US from 10 airports mainly in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified terror threats.