6 March 2017 Presidential Memorandum on Heightened Screening, Vetting, and Enforcement

October 26, 2017


On March 6, 2017, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Attorney General with the subject line: Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and Other Immigration Benefits, Ensuring Enforcement of All Laws for Entry into the United States, and Increasing Transparency among Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government and for the American People. The memorandum was published in the Federal Register on April 3, 2017, at 81 FR 16279.

Read the Presidential Memorandum

The premise of the memorandum is that "immediate implementation of additional heightened screening and vetting protocols and procedures" is needed while the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the Director of National Intelligence conduct the review called for by Section 2(a) of Executive Order 13780, i.e, the review to "identify whether, and if so what, additional information will be needed from each foreign country to adjudicate an application by a national of that country for a visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual is not a security or public-safety threat."

Sections 2 and 3 of the March 6 memorandum task the agencies with implementing such heightened screening, vetting, and enforcement "as permitted by law" and "as soon as practicable."

Section 2

Section 2 directs the agencies to implement protocols and procedures "that in their judgment will enhance the screening and vetting of applications for visas and all other immigration benefits," focusing on:

"(a) preventing the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who may aid, support, or commit violent, criminal, or terrorist acts; and

(b) ensuring the proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, or grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits."

Section 3

Section 3 of the memorandum directs the agencies:

  • "To rigorously enforce all existing grounds of inadmissibility and to ensure subsequent compliance with related laws after admission."
  • "To issue new rules, regulations, or guidance (collectively, rules), as appropriate, to enforce laws relating to such grounds of inadmissibility and subsequent compliance."
  • "To the extent that the Secretary of Homeland Security issues such new rules, the heads of all other relevant executive departments and agencies shall, as necessary and appropriate, issue new rules that conform to them. Such new rules shall supersede any previous rules to the extent of any conflict."

Agency implementation of the memorandum

We will update this page as more information becomes available.

Department of State

August 8, 2017. Stricter F-1 Residence Abroad Language in FAM

August 1, 2017. DOS Expands 30/60 Day Presumption of Misrepresentation Rule to 90 Days

June 21, 2017 Executive Order Deleting 3-Week Goal for Visa Interview Appointments

May, 2017: Form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants, standardizes the collection of additional information, including social media usage, from immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants whom a consular officer has "determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities."

March 17, 2017. A March 17, 2017 Department of State cable [17 State 25814] directs U.S. consulates on implementing Section 2 of the presidential memorandum, calling for the following:

  • 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)

Department of Homeland Security

Recent DHS policies that may be related include:

Department of Justice

No memo specifically linked to the March 6 Presidential Memorandum has yet been seen, but some recent policies that may be related include:

Department of Labor

No memo specifically linked to the March 6 Presidential Memorandum has yet been seen, but some recent policies that may be related include: