In 2017, President Donald Trump ordered immigration authorities to implement “extreme vetting” of certain visa applications. This involves asking the applicant to complete an additional form, known as Form DS-5535 (Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants). The extreme vetting process applies only to foreign nationals who are seeking a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.
Consular officers have the discretion to determine whether extreme vetting is appropriate in any given case. No clear rules identify certain types of information that would subject a foreign national to extreme vetting. In general, a consular officer will trigger the process if the foreign national’s application raises concerns related to terrorism or national security. This might involve a record of travel to countries associated with terrorism or ties to groups suspected of hostility toward the U.S. According to the State Department, less than one percent of visa applicants will go through this process.
Information Covered by Form DS-5535
The questionnaire asks applicants about where they have lived and worked during the last 15 years. It also requires applicants to provide their travel history during that period. They must explain the sources of their funds for each trip. An applicant must provide the names and dates of birth for any siblings, children, and current and former spouses or civil or domestic partners. Moreover, they must list all of the countries from which they currently hold passports and provide the numbers of those passports.
Some of the information covered by Form DS-5535 involves the online presence and activities of a foreign national. They will need to provide the email addresses that they have used during the last five years, as well as their phone numbers during that period. Also, they must disclose the social media accounts and usernames that they have used during the last five years. (Read more here about how social media activity can affect a visa application.)
If you are asked to complete Form DS-5535, you cannot refuse if you still want to pursue your visa application. Failing to submit the form likely will result in the denial of your application. A foreign national should strongly consider consulting a lawyer if they have received this form.