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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Just plead guilty (The Indian Express - 03 June 2017)

     US’s new visa questionnaire provides the thrill of a criminal interrogation to law-abiding applicants

     Is the daily grind of work, study or the sheer boredom of an uneventful life getting you down? Does the ennui of being a law-abiding citizen make you crave risk and adventure? Don’t worry. Uncle Sam will make you experience the thrill of a criminal life without actually breaking the law. The Trump administration’s new visa questionnaire for applicants across the world is an interrogation into details that even the most interested love interest will not know, or care about. It will make you feel, just for wanting to study or holiday or work in the US, like a harbourer of great secrets and a threat to the global order.

     The US state department now needs details of all the social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers that applicants have had in the last five years. Remember the embarrassingly angst-ridden blogs of your youth or that late night Facebook post you forgot to delete? Well, the US state department will examine them before you can frolic with Mickey Mouse in Disneyland.

     Those who live life the old-fashioned way — with a minimal digital footprint — need not worry. The US administration’s services for criminal thrills have a comprehensive analogue component: Applicants will need to provide 15 years of biographical information, including addresses, for every job and place they have travelled to.

     The new visa application process has been criticised on multiple counts — from granting arbitrary power to consular staff to creating a bureaucratic backlog and the fact that the US already has one of the most stringent visa processes in the world. Luckily for thrill-seekers, the Trump administration has paid no heed. So forget bungee jumping and river rafting, and just visit your unfriendly neighbourhood US visa office.

     Incidentally, the White House is trying to re-impose the travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries. So even if you do manage to make it through the interrogation, you may still be guilty.

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