Almost everyone applying for a US visa will be asked to list their social media accounts before being granted entry, under proposals put forward by Donald Trump’s administration.
Applicants will be required to submit details of any accounts held in the preceding five years on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
An estimated 14.7 million people a year would be affected by the move, which includes submissions for both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.
Those countries with visa-free travel to America, such as Britain, would not be affected but non-exempt countries such as China, India and Mexico would be hit.
The proposal was made by the US state department and submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, which has 60 days to decided whether to approve.
It comes after Mr Trump talked up the need for “extreme vetting” at America’s borders during his successful 2016 election campaign.
The Trump administration had already announced including it would roll out the request on applications for immigrant visas – meaning those for foreigners who wish to live in the US.
This change would expand the checks to non-immigrant visas, those issued to people visiting the US temporarily whose countries do not have a visa-free agreement.
Applicants would also be asked for their email addresses, telephone numbers and travel history over the last five years as well as whether they have ever been deported.
Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official.
Extreme vetting may get even more extreme under a new proposal that asks U.S. visa applicants for their social media accounts, email addresses, and phone numbers.
The proposal seeks to add questions to immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications. For example:
One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifiers used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of application. The platforms listed may be updated by the Department by adding or removing platforms. Additional platforms will be added only if collection is consistent with the uses described in the Supporting Statement and after Office of Management and Budget approval.
In addition, the applicant will be given the option to provide information about any social media identifiers associated with any platforms other than those that are listed that the applicant has used in the last five years. The Department will collect this information from visa applicants for identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards.
That’s not all; other questions will ask applicants to provide a five-year history of “previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travel; whether the applicant has been deported or removed from any country; and whether specified family members have been involved in terrorist activities.”
U.S. to Seek Social Media Details From All Visa Applicants
The State Department wants to require all U.S. visa applicants to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers, vastly expanding the Trump administration’s enhanced vetting of potential immigrants and visitors.
In documents to be published in Friday’s Federal Register, the department said it wants the public to comment on the proposed new requirements, which will affect nearly 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the U.S. each year. Previously, social media, email and phone number histories were only sought from applicants identified for extra scrutiny, such as those who have traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. An estimated 65,000 people per year are in that category.
The new rules would apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas. The department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education, according to the documents.
The documents were posted on the Federal Register’s website on Thursday but the 60-day public comment period won’t begin until Friday’s edition is published.
If the requirements are approved by the Office of Management and Budget, applications for all visa types would list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. It would also give the applicant the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed in the application.
In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants will be asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types may be exempted from the requirements, the documents said.