Form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants

August 03, 2017

 

On August 3, 2017, DOS published a Federal Register notice inviting public comment on its planned request that OMB extend approval of Form DS-5535  beyond its current emergency approval period. DOS will accept public comments for 60 days, until October 2, 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 "who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities."

View a Copy of Form DS-5535

If a consular officer determines that a visa applicant warrants this additional scrutiny, the applicant will be instructed to provide the following information on Form DS-5535:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
  • Address history during the last fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Name and dates of birth for all children;
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

Background

In a May 4, 2017 Federal Register notice [82 FR 20956], the Department of State (DOS) proposed creating a new form to standardize the collection of additional information from immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants "who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities." The form was designated as Form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants. In the Federal Register notice, DOS:

  • Stated that collecting this information "implements the directive of the President, in the Memorandum for the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security of March 6, 2017, to implement additional protocols and procedures focused on 'ensur[ing] 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.'"
  • Estimated that "0.5% of U.S. visa applicants worldwide, or in the range of 65,000 individuals per annum, will present a threat profile, based on individual circumstances and information they provide, that will lead U.S. consular officers at posts around the world to conclude the applicant warrants enhanced screening that takes into account the information that is proposed to be collected."
  • Stated that "Failure to provide requested information will not necessarily result in visa denial, if the consular officer determines the applicant has provided a credible explanation why he or she cannot answer a question or provide requested supporting documentation, such that the consular officer is able to conclude that the applicant has provided adequate information to determine the applicant's eligibility to receive the visa. The collection of social media platforms and identifiers will not be used to deny visas based on applicants' race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation."

DOS had asked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for a 180-day emergency approval of Form DS-5535, and gave the public until May 18, 2017 to submit comments on the proposed form. OMB approved DOS' request, and the current Form DS-5535 has an expiration date of 11/30/2017. On August 3, 2017, DOS published a Federal Register notice inviting public comment on its planned request that OMB extend approval of the DS-5535 on a regular basis, beyond the emergency approval. DOS will accept public comments for 60 days, until October 2, 2017.

NAFSA Comments

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..."