Trump makes it harder for Southeast Asians to obtain US visas

Reading Time: 2 minutes

An increasing number of acts of terrorism and violent attacks, the spread of Islamist ideas and serious incidents of human trafficking from Southeast Asia to the US will make it likely much more difficult in the future for citizens from certain Southeast Asian nations, namely Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, to obtain visas for the US.

Even more so after US President Donald Trump’s administration on May 25 approved intensified screening measures for ALL visa applicants trying to reach the US, even as multiple federal courts have blocked its travel ban against six Muslim-majority countries.

The US State Department released a new guidance to embassies worldwide which gives consular officers even broader discretion than they already have to apply stricter criteria to applicants, demanding more background material than required of typical applicants such as travel history, addresses and jobs over the past 15 years, the names of siblings, children or former spouses, as well as all phone numbers and “public-facing” social media accounts used in the last five years.

It seems that US intelligence services are also getting involved right from the start. A US State Department spokesman noted in a slightly encoded way that the department has “begun collecting additional information from certain applicants worldwide when a consular officer determines more information is needed.”

Furthermore, the measures enable US embassies worldwide to create their own criteria for putting applicants through more rigorous screening and identify extra criteria for visa applicants to scrutinise applicants with regards to potential terrorism, espionage, proliferation or “other ineligibilities.” Any applicant who would ordinarily be eligible for a visa, but now meets the new local criteria, has to go through the extended screening process.

“It is now completely at the discretion of the individual consular officers whether they will grant a visa for the US or not,” a source with knowledge about the visa processes at the US embassy in Bangkok told Investvine.

“Of course there has never been such thing as a right to a US visa, but now they are from the very start treating everyone as a criminal subject and can deny visas without explaining why and without refunding the visa fee,” the source added.

In Thailand, the US embassy in Bangkok already has a reputation of intensely vetting Thai applicants for tourist, business or spouse visas, making it often a months-long process with multiple interviews and document requests, owing to frequent, but relatively harmless visa abuses in the past such as overstaying.

But it could become worse in the future after the latest exposure of a wide-ranging human trafficking and prostitution ring involving Thai traffickers and visa fraudsters. Thais from the Muslim South are also likely to face greater difficulties to get a US entry visa.

There are also concerns that the US will finally add the Southern Philippines to its (not yet legally recognised) travel ban list or at least drastically widen scrutiny of Filipino applicants’ backgrounds after the recent occurrences in Mindanao involving the Islamic State. Some observers expect the same for citizens from Malaysia and Indonesia where radical Islamic ideologies seem to attract a clientele that gets larger by the day.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

An increasing number of acts of terrorism and violent attacks, the spread of Islamist ideas and serious incidents of human trafficking from Southeast Asia to the US will make it likely much more difficult in the future for citizens from certain Southeast Asian nations, namely Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, to obtain visas for the US.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

An increasing number of acts of terrorism and violent attacks, the spread of Islamist ideas and serious incidents of human trafficking from Southeast Asia to the US will make it likely much more difficult in the future for citizens from certain Southeast Asian nations, namely Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, to obtain visas for the US.

Even more so after US President Donald Trump’s administration on May 25 approved intensified screening measures for ALL visa applicants trying to reach the US, even as multiple federal courts have blocked its travel ban against six Muslim-majority countries.

The US State Department released a new guidance to embassies worldwide which gives consular officers even broader discretion than they already have to apply stricter criteria to applicants, demanding more background material than required of typical applicants such as travel history, addresses and jobs over the past 15 years, the names of siblings, children or former spouses, as well as all phone numbers and “public-facing” social media accounts used in the last five years.

It seems that US intelligence services are also getting involved right from the start. A US State Department spokesman noted in a slightly encoded way that the department has “begun collecting additional information from certain applicants worldwide when a consular officer determines more information is needed.”

Furthermore, the measures enable US embassies worldwide to create their own criteria for putting applicants through more rigorous screening and identify extra criteria for visa applicants to scrutinise applicants with regards to potential terrorism, espionage, proliferation or “other ineligibilities.” Any applicant who would ordinarily be eligible for a visa, but now meets the new local criteria, has to go through the extended screening process.

“It is now completely at the discretion of the individual consular officers whether they will grant a visa for the US or not,” a source with knowledge about the visa processes at the US embassy in Bangkok told Investvine.

“Of course there has never been such thing as a right to a US visa, but now they are from the very start treating everyone as a criminal subject and can deny visas without explaining why and without refunding the visa fee,” the source added.

In Thailand, the US embassy in Bangkok already has a reputation of intensely vetting Thai applicants for tourist, business or spouse visas, making it often a months-long process with multiple interviews and document requests, owing to frequent, but relatively harmless visa abuses in the past such as overstaying.

But it could become worse in the future after the latest exposure of a wide-ranging human trafficking and prostitution ring involving Thai traffickers and visa fraudsters. Thais from the Muslim South are also likely to face greater difficulties to get a US entry visa.

There are also concerns that the US will finally add the Southern Philippines to its (not yet legally recognised) travel ban list or at least drastically widen scrutiny of Filipino applicants’ backgrounds after the recent occurrences in Mindanao involving the Islamic State. Some observers expect the same for citizens from Malaysia and Indonesia where radical Islamic ideologies seem to attract a clientele that gets larger by the day.

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