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Notice

30-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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ACTION:

Notice of request for public comment and submission to OMB of proposed collection of information.

SUMMARY:

The Department of State has submitted the information collection described below to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval. In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 we are requesting comments on this collection from all interested individuals and organizations. The purpose of this Notice is to allow 30 days for public comment.

DATES:

Submit comments directly to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) up to December 27, 2017.

ADDRESSES:

Direct comments to the Department of State Desk Officer in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). You may submit comments by the following methods:

  • Email: oira_submission@omb.eop.gov. You must include the DS form number, information collection title, and the OMB control number in the subject line of your message.
  • Fax: 202-395-5806. Attention: Desk Officer for Department of State.
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Direct requests for additional information regarding the collection listed in this notice, including requests for copies of the proposed collection instrument and supporting documents to S. Taylor, who may be reached at PRA_Burdencomments@state.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

  • Title of Information Collection: Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants.
  • OMB Control Number: 1405-0226.
  • Type of Request: Extension of a Currently Approved Collection.
  • Originating Office: Bureau of Consular Affairs, Visa Office (CA/VO).
  • Form Number: DS-5535.
  • Respondents: Certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants worldwide who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism, national security-related, or other visa ineligibilities.
  • Estimated Number of Respondents: 70,500.
  • Estimated Number of Responses: 70,500.
  • Average Time per Response: 60 minutes.
  • Total Estimated Burden Time: 70,500 hours.
  • Frequency: Once per respondent's application.
  • Obligation to Respond: Required to Obtain or Retain a Benefit.

We are soliciting public comments to permit the Department to:

  • Evaluate whether the proposed information collection is necessary for the proper functions of the Department.
  • Evaluate the accuracy of our estimate of the time and cost burden for this proposed collection, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used.
  • Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected.
  • Minimize the reporting burden on those who are to respond, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

Please note that comments submitted in response to this Notice are public record. Before including any detailed personal information, you should be aware that your comments as submitted, including your personal information, will be available for public review.

Abstract of Proposed Collection

The Department proposes requesting the following information, if not already included in an application, from a subset of visa applicants worldwide, in order to more rigorously evaluate such applicants for terrorism, national security-related, or other visa ineligibilities:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
  • Address history during the last fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Name and dates of birth for all children;Start Printed Page 56100
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

Regarding travel history, applicants may be requested to provide details of their international or domestic (within their country of nationality) travel, if it appears to the consular officer that the applicant has been in an area while the area was under the operational control of a terrorist organization as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B)(vi) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(vi). Applicants may be asked to recount or explain the details of their travel, and when possible, provide supporting documentation.

This information collection continues implementation of the directive of the President, in the Memorandum for the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security of March 6, 2017, to implement additional protocols and procedures focused on “ensur[ing] the proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, or grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits.” In substance, this proposed collection is the same as the collection that was requested through the emergency procedures in May 2017. The emergency approval limited the collection to a temporary six month approval, and these materials seek to extend that approval for three years. Consular posts worldwide regularly engage with U.S. law enforcement and partners in the U.S. intelligence community to identify characteristics of applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny. The additional information collected will facilitate consular officer efforts to apply more rigorous evaluation of these applicants for visa ineligibilities. In accordance with existing authorities, visas may not be denied on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.

Based upon the data since this collection began implementation in May 2017, the Department estimates that 70,500 applicants annually will be requested to respond to this collection. The Department bases this estimate on the fact that consular officers worldwide asked an approximately 25,000 applicants questions contained in this information collection between May 2017 and October 2, 2017.

Failure to provide requested information will not necessarily result in visa denial, if the consular officer determines the applicant has provided a credible explanation why he or she cannot answer a question or provide requested supporting documentation, such that the consular officer is able to conclude that the applicant has provided adequate information to determine the applicant's eligibility to receive the visa. The collection of social media platforms and identifiers will not be used to deny visas based on applicants' race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.

Methodology

Department of State consular officers at visa-adjudicating posts worldwide will ask the proposed additional questions to resolve questions about an applicant's identity or to vet for terrorism, national security-related, or other visa ineligibilities when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny. The additional questions may be sent electronically to the applicant or be presented orally or in writing at the time of the interview. Consular officers will be mindful that, unlike some other forms of personal information required from visa applicants, social media identifiers may afford the user anonymity. Posts will assess their respective operating environments and collect the social media identifier information from applicants in a manner that best safeguards its transmission from applicant to post. In furtherance of this collection, consular officers are directed not to request user passwords; engage or interact with individual visa applicants on or through social media when conducting assessments of visa eligibility; not to violate or attempt to violate individual privacy settings or controls; and not to use social media or assess an individual's social media presence beyond established Department guidance. Consular staff are also directed in connection with this collection to take particular care to avoid collection of third-party information when conducting any social media reviews.

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Edward Ramotowski,

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State.

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[FR Doc. 2017-25490 Filed 11-24-17; 8:45 am]

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