State Dept orders stricter screening for visa applicants

That drama is reflected in the cables sent on March 15 and March 16.

The four memos were sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks, with the most recent issued on March 17th. The cables also demonstrate the administrative and logistical hurdles the White House faces in executing its vision.

The cable calls for consular chiefs at each post to immediately convene working groups to "develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny" and "attempt to identify individual applicants that fall within the population set during the course of a consular visa interview".

The 17 March memo noted that applicants falling in one of the identified population groups should be considered for additional higher-level screenings.

Trump has said enhanced screening of foreigners is necessary to protect the country against terrorist attacks. However, the cables do illustrate a renewed focus on the vetting of visa applicants by the DOS, including the potential review of visa applicants' social media, Maryland-based Murthy law firm, which processes visa and immigration issues, said in a cautious advisory.

It's an early sign of the Trump team actually implementing tougher border security - a noticeable theme of Trump's campaign and early presidency.

But the State Department official said the meeting in Brussels had been brought forward and would now go ahead.

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But, the paper notes, that program does not apply to citizens from the Middle East or Africa, the regions covered under Trump's two suspended travel bans. The second, much briefer message rescinded much of that March 15 memo.

The cable, which was first reported by Reuters, does not define "population sets".

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend a major North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting next week he initially planned on skipping, according to multiple reports.

Per the same memo, visa applicants that fall within one of these identified population groups should be considered for higher-level security screening. That would constitute a significant expansion of vetting for consular officers, who screen social media only rarely - for instance, in the case of Syrian refugee applicants - due to concerns that it would create an unnecessary swell in backlogs, according to officials consulted by Reuters.

The staff will ask the applicants about their backgrounds and monitor their social media if a person to check whether they have ever been in territory controlled by the Islamic State. An early memo, sent 15 March, suggested areas of questioning during a required interview, including travel history, living and work history for the last 15 years, phone numbers and online accounts used in the last five years.

"Ultimately, most visa applicants are unlikely to see much change from previous visa adjudication practices as a result of these cables".

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for wider social media screening for those seeking to enter the us, saying that such checks could help to spot possible links to terrorist activity.

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