ASAE submitted comments this week on the Trump administration’s proposed tougher scrutiny of foreign nationals seeking visas to travel to the United States.

ASAE characterized the proposed tougher questioning of visa applicants – which includes reviewing 15 years of biographical information and social media usage – as “invasive and extreme.”

“ASAE is strongly supportive of appropriate screening procedures but is concerned that the changes proposed by the administration are excessive and could discourage business travel and tourism to the U.S.,” ASAE said in its comments to the State Department.

ASAE noted that visa applicants are already subject to a comprehensive, multi-layered screening process that includes cross-checks with terrorism watch lists and an in-person interview with a consular officer who is trained to look for red flags in their application. Visa applicants also must be photographed and fingerprinted before receiving their temporary visas to enter the U.S. Proposed further restrictions on travel to the U.S. – including the administration’s proposed travel ban, which is hung up in the courts – have already caused many foreign travelers to rethink travel to the U.S. for tourism or business.

The tougher procedures are detailed in a Reuters article, but would include questioning visa applicants about their travel over the past 15 years, their employment history, their family members, and their social media usage and handles. The State Department has asserted that the stepped-up criteria would be applied to only about 65,000 visa applicants per year and that the criteria does not target nationals of any particular countries. However, the wording of the announcement in the Federal Register is sufficiently vague to raise concern about who would be subjected to the additional scrutiny.

ASAE has continued to stress that security is vitally important, but that a balance must be struck between the need for appropriate vetting standards and the need to facilitate legitimate travel to the U.S.

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