Trump Puts The Brakes On Obama Directive To Speed Up Visa Interviews

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The White House has overturned an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama that required most nonimmigrant visa applicants to be interviewed less than a month after their initial applications.

President Donald Trump’s new directive, announced late Wednesday, cancels the section of Obama’s Executive Order 13597 that instructs the Department of State to “ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.”

Obama issued the original order in 2012, saying that reduced processing times for tourist and business visas would create jobs and spur economic growth. While the White House has not offered a specific reason for the change to the order, it appears to be related to the administration’s push to implement tougher vetting in the U.S. visa system. (RELATED: DHS: More Than 700K Foreigners Overstayed Their Visas In 2016)

The State Department said Thursday that the revision cancels an unnecessary rule preventing consular officers from making “real-world security determinations.”

“The president expects careful, accurate vetting of visa applicants, not a rushed process to accommodate an arbitrary deadline,” department spokesman Michael Short told USA Today.

Trump’s revised order comes as the Supreme Court considers whether or not to allow the administration to proceed with its proposed ban on travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries. Justices are scheduled to meet for the final closed-door conference of the court’s term Thursday, and a decision could come as late as Monday.

Even if the court decides against the administration, Trump’s order allows the government to slow the pace of visa issuance and, ultimately, the number of foreigners approved for travel to the U.S. By removing the minimum wait time for a visa interview, the order also gives consular officers in U.S. embassies wider latitude to investigate applicants who want to come to the U.S. as tourists or business travelers, and more time to determine which of them might be security risks.

A State Department official told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the policy change is necessary because “every visa decision is a national security decision.” The revised order allows the Bureau of Consular Affairs to facilitate legitimate travel while ensuring that visa applicants do not pose a security risk to the U.S., the official said.

“Rescinding this provision allows the Department to support the essential functions of the Bureau of Consular Affairs by providing additional flexibility to determine when longer processing times may be appropriate to accomplish our mission, including allowing time for additional security screening,” the official told TheDCNF.

The change accompanies the Department of Homeland Security’s 90-day review of visa vetting procedures, which Trump originally ordered as a part of the travel ban. The review had been blocked by a court order, but a San Francisco-based appeals court said last week that DHS could proceed with the evaluation.

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