The Trump administration has not been reserved in its mission to not only reinforce but to heighten and enhance current immigration regulations. The President has quickly tried to implement measures to increase national security and border protection and has tasked federal agencies with a series of mandates to review current practices and recommend changes. The U.S. Department of State, for example, has recently implemented tougher vetting of U.S. visa applicants, including a new “Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants” questionnaire that asks applicants about their social media handles for the last five years, as well as biographical and employment information for the last 15 years. While some applicants may not be subject to the supplemental questions, the Department of State has indicated a focus on applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.” Some see the new questionnaire as a standard augmentation to screening individuals or groups who have historically been more closely scrutinized, while others believe it is unnecessary or ineffective. Legal counsel can provide guidance to employers and/or employees on preparation for visa processing.
Another newly implemented process by Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has been a welcome addition for participants in the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”). At the time of a border crossing, CBP will now enter the last possible departure date from the U.S. on the electronic I-94 issued to VWP participants upon entry into the U.S. and will send an email reminder to the traveler. If a traveler has remained beyond their departure date, they will be given directions on what steps to take. Other nonimmigrant categories will likely see new features added to the I-94 in the future as well. This information should aid visitors in planning a timely departure and avoiding an accidental overstay. If you have questions about the new vetting procedures or the I-94 changes, please contact Melissa Azallion or Jon Eggert at (843) 785-2171.