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Petitioners and Guest Artists: Allow More Time for Consular Processing - (06/12/19)

The Department of State recently announced that as of May 31, 2019, new U.S. visa applicants worldwide in most categories, including the O and P visa categories used by artists, will need to provide all social media identifiers when applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate. A Frequently Asked Questions page about the updates to the form DS-160 has been posted online, explaining that a social media “handle” or “identifier” is any name used by the individual on social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The updated visa application forms list the specific social media platforms for which the identifiers (but not passwords) from the past five years are being requested. The social media screening does not apply to participants in the Visa Waiver Program or to beneficiaries who have already undergone consular processing and have a U.S. visa.

In related consular news, the U.S. Department of State’s DS-5535 supplemental questionnaire, announced in June 2017 as a means for consular officers to further vet applicants at their own discretion, is reportedly being requested more frequently in recent weeks—particularly for artists from Africa. Once the DS-5535 is requested, consular processing can increase to more than six months and little can be done to expedite or intervene in these cases. Whether or not a consular officer requests the DS-5535, some artists are experiencing longer than usual administrative processing, which is likely a direct result of the President’s March 6, 2017, Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits and Section 5 of Executive Order 13780 regarding implementing uniform screening and vetting standards for visa applications. Therefore, in addition to allowing ample time for the USCIS stage of the visa approval process, U.S. petitioners and international guest artists are advised to factor in more time for consular processing as well.