USCIS forms updated

True to one of its promised  immigration policies, the present administration is implementing its extreme vetting.  Since it took over the White House a year ago, attempts to reform the U.S. immigration rules and procedures, have been persistent and bold – from issuing executive orders, re: controversial travel bans, terminating DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivalas) and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) programs to updating/upgrading USCIS (U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services) forms.

Very recently, the  terror in Manhattan, New York City which took the lives of 8 people and wounded dozens, seems to justify the ‘moves’ taken by the government.  Domestic terrorism has become a gnawing and perplexing problem, globally as well.  Should entry into the United States be curtailed to protect the country from outside terrorist influence or the world has porous boundaries that the option of physical isolation is a thing of the past?  With the explosion of social media and the success of global trade and interactions, we can only look into palliative measures to minimize (and hopefully, eradicate) the imminent fatal consequences of the global malady.  Nowadays, in the United States, as well as in other countries in Europe like France, terrorist attacks are perpetrated by locals  with jihadi influence, hence the term “homegrown terrorism”.  In December 2015, the mass shooting by a Chicago-born citizen and his Pakistani wife left 14 people dead at a holiday party in San Bernardino, CA.  In June 2016, 49 people were killed when a New York-born citizen (whose parents came from Afghanistan) aimed his guns at a club party in Orlando, Florida.  The perpetrators of the mass killing did not enter the United States on a visitor’s, work or student visa (non-immigrant visas); they were here mostly, because of a family-based visa petition or the lottery program (immigrant visas).  A perusal of the new forms would reveal that they are longer (contain more pages than the previous versions) and ask more questions, perhaps, formulated to find out if there are possible ‘roots’ that will lead to a reasonable suspicion that would require more information as to the applicant’s background and affiliations before the petition can be approved.   For instance, after the San Bernandino shootings in 2015, one begs to question whether there should have been more information asked in the fiancée visa (USCIS/US Department of Homeland Security) and immigrant visa (US Embassy) forms to reasonably detect a possible affiliation with a terrorist group or alliance.  The Pakistani wife in said incident came in as a fiancée to marry her U.S. born fiancé.  The newly updated forms, including but not limited to petition for alien relative, application for lawful permanent residence, application for work permit, U.S. naturalization, fiancée visa petition, ask questions, among others, of one’s residence and employment for the last 5 years, here and abroad, or one’s relatives (such as spouse, parent or children) and where they live.   The forms ask more questions on one’s involvement with crimes (international or domestic) and with terrorist organizations.  Most of the ‘added’ questions asked are already questions contained in another form when one finally decided to become a U.S. citizen or when interviewed at the U.S. embassy before entry into the U.S., on an immigrant or non-immigrant visa.   The data collected by the U.S. Department of State and Homeland Security from these forms are integrated and shared with the Social Security Administation and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to a certain degree.

The government simply wants to protect its people. Something has got to be done.   National security is of paramount consideration.  Compliance with the new rules and procedures can be a remedial measure.  We cannot close our borders; history will tell that open  international  relations has always been the core of global existence. Until we learn to read minds, there will always be loopholes.

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states. Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to for any questions on this article.

1 Comment
  1. I have seen the increased screening and vetting start at the US Embassy in Manila as of September, 2017. It has increased even more after the first of the 2018 year.

    However, the additional screening and vetting is only right now scrutinizing those US Visa applicants from Mindanao. I am an administrator of a large Facebook discussion and support group about US family based visas. In our group, we saw the increased vetting start in September of 2017. The vetting has been limited to those from Mindanao.

    On March 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump issued a memorandum to all US embassies and consulates calling for “heightened screening and vetting” for applications for visas.

    In fact, this new measure now gives US Embassy Consulars broad powers to request more background materials from certain applicants compared to regular applicants. For example, these additional materials include:

    passport and travel history,
    information on relatives,
    address and contact information,
    current and prior email addresses, and
    social media account names.

    As result of the presidential memorandume Form DS-5535 came to be. This form is the Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants. For this purpose, the embassy uses this form to gather the additional information requested by the consular officer.

    As a consequence of the presidential memorandum, the visa applicants from Mindanao under scrutiny are told to complete Form DS-5535. This is being done at the end of their US Embassy interview.

    The US Visa applicants under scrutiny are then placed on 1-2 months of additional processing for additional security checks.

    We understand the need for national security. We know that the US Department of State considers the Philippine Island of Mindanao a “Safe Haven” for Terrorists. We also underdand that that recent events in Marawi City doesn’t help. It actually a wonder that this has not started before now.

    Howver, there are many areas of Mindanao where terrorism does not exist. There are also many innocent people involved that now face an additional 2 months of processing beyond the long norml 10 – 12 months of visa processing and separation from family. One way to help is to possible do these additional security checks upfront rather than waiting and tacking it on at the end.

    For more information please see this post.

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