DOS Cable Calls for Increased Visa Screening Measures

A March 17, 2017 Department of State cable [17 State 25814] directs U.S. consulates on implementing Section 2 of a November 6, 2017 Presidential Memorandum, which provides: “The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, as permitted by law, implement protocols and procedures as soon as practicable that in their judgment will enhance the screening and vetting of applications for visas and all other immigration benefits, so as to increase the safety and security of the American people.”

Here is a summary of the measures called for by the cable, followed by the text of the cable:

◦Increased focus on thoroughly examining visa applications for not only security-based factors, but all other eligibility factors as well; Consular officers should not hesitate to deny a visa of applicants whom the officer believes may not be eligible or may fail to abide by the requirements of the particular visa category. (paragraph 4)

◦Consular posts are directed to develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny because of law enforcement and intelligence factors; If an applicant is within that set of criteria, and is otherwise eligible for the visa, officers should consider requesting a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO). (paragraphs 6-10)

◦Mandatory social media check for applicants “present in a territory at the time it was controlled by ISIS”. Consular officers are instructed to refer applicants who may have ties to ISIS or other terrorist organizations or have “ever been present in an ISIS-controlled territory” to the consular Fraud Prevention Unit for a mandatory social media review, and to consider the results of this review during any subsequent SAO request. (paragraph 10)

◦Mandatory Donkey SAO for Iraqi nationals with presence in territory at the time it was controlled by ISIS. As its name implies, a Donkey SAO may take longer to resolve than other types of SAOs. (paragraphs 11-12)

◦Consular posts directed to generally not schedule more than 120 visa interviews per consular adjudicator/per day; this may cause interview appointment backlogs to rise. (paragraph 13)

◦These are preliminary measures.  Additional screening measures may be introduced based on the conclusions of the interagency working groups mandated by Executive Order 13780. (paragraph 5)