New visa form DS-5535 is an ‘invisible wall’ for many immigrants
Form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants, was created by the Trump administration in May of 2017, as part of the president’s “extreme vetting” push. It is given to applicants that are deemed to require further vetting before granting or denying their visa application. The questionnaire is technically voluntary, but for obvious reasons most applicants quickly submit them, only to be met by an “administrative processing” period that has bloated from 1-2 months to 6-12+ months.
Requested information includes full 15-year histories for residential addresses; all travel and how it was funded; employment history; passports & countries of citizenship; and names and birthdates for all siblings, children, and spouses/domestic partners. In addition, it request all social media accounts and email addresses (including user names) for the past 5 years. The form also contains questions that lead back to the Cold War-era concerns relating to jobs or education that have to do with technology, science, or military experience that could raise a red flag.
Mr. Moshe Schulman, an American writer from New York, writes for the NY Times about his fiancée’s experience with the form. After returning home to Morocco after the expiration of a J-1 visa, his fiancée expected to return on a similar visa. When that fell through, they applied for a K-1 fiancee visa, waited eight months for an interview, and that is when the DS-5535 became a factor. It has extended the process by another five months and counting, despite the consular interviewer finding their relationship “bona fide.”
Mr. Schulman’s senator and congresswoman wrote letters on his behalf. He has called the U.S. consulate in Morocco, the Department of State, and the National Visa Center. He has been met with conflicting instructions and red tape at every turn. He and his fiancée have been separated for over 1.5 years now. This has imposed an emotional and financial hardship on the both of them. The fear is that this long, grueling process is deliberate, and aimed at dissuading some immigrants (including Muslim immigrants who are not from countries on the travel ban list) from taking legal steps to immigrate.
In light of this form, it is important to re-state how careful one must be when posting comments, videos, and photos on social media websites, because your history can have a negative effect on your immigration journey. The rules about how immigration officials treat what they learn about your online history are not clearly defined, giving them much leeway to potentially deny a visa.
To read more about the DS-5535 and Mr. Schulman’s experience with it, click here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/opinion/schulman-immigration-extreme-vetting-ds5535.html