Proposed Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) proposes to expand the information required from certain visa applicants. The additional information would be requested in Form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants. Information requested by Form DS-5535 includes:

  • Travel history for past 15 years (instead of the 5 years requested by the current nonimmigrant visa application);
  • Source of funding for travels for past 15 years;
  • Address history for the past 15 years;
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the past 15 years;
  • Employment history for the past 15 years (instead of the 5 years requested by the current nonimmigrant visa application);
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Names and dates of birth for all children;
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  • All social media handles used during the past 5 years.

DOS estimates that it should take an applicant 60 minutes to complete the supplemental form.

If the DOS proposal is approved, certain applicants will need to complete the new Form DS-5535 in addition to the visa application itself. The new form would be required for applicants for immigrant or nonimmigrant visas who have been identified to need further screening in connection with terrorism or national security-related issues. DOS anticipates that less than 65,000 visa applicants would be affected each year. This is about 0.5% of visa applicants worldwide.

On May 4, 2017, DOS submitted the proposal for emergency review and approval to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has urged DOS to withdraw its proposal and request for emergency review and approval.

According to AILA, DOS has not justified the need for emergency OMB review and approval. While President Trump’s March 6, 2017 memorandum directed the enhancement of screening and vetting standards “as soon as practicable”, DOS failed to provide “concrete and independent information” as to why its proposal should be implemented on an expedited basis. AILA urges DOS to withdraw its request for emergency approval and proceed with the full notice and comment process.

AILA also expressed concerns about the extent of information requested in Form DS-5535. Requiring an applicant to provide accurate, detailed, and complete information for a 15-year period is excessive and easily leads to unintentional errors. Unintentional errors on a visa application would easily result in a denial of the application and even a bar to admissibility. Given the extent of information requested in Form DS-5535, the actual time to complete the form may be hours or even days.

Finally, AILA expressed concerns about privacy by requiring an applicant to provide social media information. A review of social media profiles will likely extend to friends, relatives, and business associates, and can lead many to self-censor or delete their accounts. Innocent communications can easily be misconstrued and result in unwarranted denials of applications.

AILA has urged DOS to reconsider the scope of information requested in Form DS-5535 and associated burdens to complete it.

For more information about this proposed supplemental form and how you may be impacted, please contact us at 713-782-4646.