Reuters is reporting that Rex Tillerson, has directed diplomatic missions to identify “populations requiring increased scrutiny.” In addition it was reported that he has ordered a “mandatory social media check” for all applicants who have ever been present in a territory controlled by an Islamic State.
Extreme vetting procedures are only one of many campaign promises made by the Trump Administration. We have already seen enhanced enforcement efforts directed at individuals with criminal records, final orders of deportation and visa overstays, referred to as surges. The Administration has run into a number of hurdles in implementing some of the procedures they hope to implement. Some of the procedures were part of the travel ban which have been put on hold.
The obvious concern is that the new process will result in significant delays in visa issuance. The delays for a case placed in administrative processing can be as long as six months. There has always been some hesitancy on the part of H-1B workers to travel outside the United States for a visa stamp. These delays will only reinforce the fear that if a worker travels and has to wait six months to return to the United States they will lose their job.
Equally important is the business travel of workers in multi-national companies facing delays in business travel to the United States. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified before Congress in February and indicated that travelers who refuse to hand over requested information, including social media information could be barred from coming to the United States. Trump has also called for some type of test to determine whether a traveler embraces American values. How that will be determined is unclear.
Visa waiver travelers will not be exempt from the vetting procedures. Presumably there will be additional questions on the ESTA application as well as more questions at the port of entry. For the time being we have to wait and see how this will all play out. Expect rapid changes once the State Department moves forward with implementing changes. This will make resource planning difficult for companies relying on foreign workers for critical, large scale time sensitive projects. Expect delays!!