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DOS Seeks to Extend Use of DS-5535; NAFSA Opposes

August 07, 2017 (2 min read)

Reuters, Aug. 4, 2017 - "The Trump administration moved on Thursday to make permanent a new questionnaire that asks some U.S. visa applicants to provide their social media handles and detailed biographical and travel history, according to a public notice.

The questionnaire was rolled out in May as part of an effort to tighten vetting of would-be visitors to the United States, and asks for all prior passport numbers, five years' worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history. (See:

A State Department official declined to provide data on how many times the form had been used or which nationalities had been asked to fill it out since May, only stating that it estimates 65,000 visa applicants per year "will present a threat profile" that warrants the extra screening.

President Donald Trump ran for office in 2016 pledging to crack down on illegal immigration for security reasons, and has called for "extreme vetting" of foreigners entering the United States. On Wednesday, he threw his support behind a bill that would cut legal immigration to the United States by 50 percent over 10 years.

The Office of Management and Budget, which must approve most new federal requests of information from the public, initially approved the form on an "emergency" basis, which allowed its use for six months rather than the usual three years.

The State Department published a notice in the Federal Register on Thursday seeking to use the form for the next three years. The public has 60 days to comment on the request. (See:

The questions are meant to "more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism, national security-related, or other visa ineligibilities," the notice said."

NAFSA, Aug. 3, 2017 - "On May 18, 2017, NAFSA and 54 other academic and scientific organizations raised concerns in a joint comment letter, regarding the Department of State's proposal to create the new form DS-5535.

Read the Joint Comment Letter

In their comment, the organizations stated:

"We appreciate and support the need to secure our nation and its citizens from individuals who seek to do us and our interests harm. But we caution that this security need should be balanced with the need to remain open to those pursuing academic study and scientific research. Academic and scientific exchange fuels the innovations essential to strengthening the U.S. economy and improving the lives of U.S. citizens."

"The notice, as proposed, is likely to have a chilling effect not only on those required to submit additional information, but indirectly on all international travelers to the United States. The uncertainties and confusion regarding supplemental questions will have a negative impact, particularly on U.S. higher education and scientific collaborations. The notice also provides insufficient information regarding the criteria for identifying those required to complete the supplemental form, the impact of unintentional incomplete disclosure of information, such as social media presence, or remedies for correcting information initially provided. These additional questions could lead to unacceptably long delays in processing, which are particularly harmful to applicants with strict activity timeframes or enrollment deadlines. Additionally, there is no information regarding the longer-term use, retention, or privacy protections for the information provided..."