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


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 “extreme vetting” in the U.S. visa system.

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 pose a security risk.

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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