New State Department visa requirements could push Trump travel ban even further

Officials fear many countries will not be able to meet the strict new requirements

Emily Shugerman
New York
Friday 14 July 2017 22:31
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The travel ban has been controversial
The travel ban has been controversial

The US State Department has released guidelines for granting visas that could effectively expand Donald Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries.

The State Department recently sent out a cable listing the new standards that all countries must meet when applying for US visas for their residents. The guidelines are so strict, however, that officials worry many countries won’t be able to meet them.

Among other things, countries seeking US visas must include a facial biometric image on their passports, issue electronic passports, and provide "any other identity information" on travellers that Washington requests.

The countries must also supply information on anyone they believe to be a terrorist, as well as the criminal history information of anyone seeking a US visa.

States that do not meet these standards within 50 days – or at least develop a plan to do so – could face travel restrictions. Potential restrictions include a presidential proclamation to "prohibit the entry of certain categories of foreign nationals".

The new requirements are the result of Mr Trump’s executive order banning travel from six Muslim-majority countries, which also mandated a review of international vetting procedures. A revised version of the ban took effect last month, and will be reviewed by the Supreme Court later this year.

According to some officials, the new State Department policies have the potential to extend the travel ban beyond those six countries.

One US official familiar with the issue told Politico that the cable gave the impression that “the standards are so high that most countries won't meet them”.

Leon Fresco, a prominent immigration attorney, added that the rules require a technological infrastructure that many countries won't be able to afford. According to Mr Fresco, some countries on the US Visa Waiver Program – which allows travellers to visit the United States without a visa – may not be able to meet the new requirements.

The cable asks diplomats to inform non-compliant countries that the US will “work with them as they determine how they can meet the new baseline standards”.

“[W]hile it is not our goal to impose a ban on immigration benefits, including visas, for citizens of any country, these standards are designed to mitigate risk,” the cable reads.

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