State Department Instructs Embassies To Beef Up Screening For Visa Applicants

Arkansas governor signs bill reinstating voter ID law

-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has issued four cables to U.S. diplomatic posts overseas over the past two weeks that recommend additional steps consular officers should take when vetting visa applicants, in the first glimpse of the "extreme vetting" promised by President Trump on the campaign trail.

Two of Tillerson's memos outline how to implement President Donald Trump's revised executive order on immigration, but some of the guidelines have been rescinded after a Hawaii judge issued a temporary injunction to block key parts of the travel ban from taking effect March 16.

President Trump promised on the campaign trail to establish "extreme vetting", on people entering the US, and this measure appears to be a step towards that pledge. Tillerson's social media guidance was accompanied by another to order to form working groups to "develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny". She reports that the human rights organization decried the memos' reference to "population sets", calling it a "license for discrimination based on national origin and religion".

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.




Some of Tillerson's stricter guidance was revised after Trump's travel executive order was struck down in mid March.

"There's so much social media out there", said Anne Richard, a former US assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Last month, the United States revoked 60,000 travel visas after President Trump ordered a ban on visitors from seven mainly-Muslim countries halting arrivals for at least 90 days for the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Those applicants are mentioned separately in a paragraph titled "Mandatory Social Media Check for Applicants Present in a territory at the time it was controlled by ISIS", and must undergo a social media review as well. Missing that session only would have fed the criticism that Tillerson hasn't played a central role in White House decisions on foreign policy.

The cable sent on March 15 recommends areas of inquiry during a visa interview, includes: the applicant's travel history, addresses and work history for 15 years; and all phone numbers, email addresses and social media handles used by the applicant in the past five years. The memos had been unreported until Reuters obtained copies of them earlier this week.

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