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Social Media Vetting Is Official: US Visa Applicants May Have To Disclose Their Social Media Names

Going forward, U.S. visa applicants will have to disclose their Facebook, Twitter and other social media handles from the past five years if they want to enter the United States.

News emerged back in February that Homeland Security was considering a new protocol to increase national security through more thorough screening that could extend to one's online presence.

The Trump administration made the controversial proposal last month, arguing that visa applicants should go through tougher vetting that would also cover one's social media accounts. The State Department has now formally approved it, enacting the expanded questionnaire that requires applicants to hand over their social media names from the past five years, as well as their biographical information from the past 15 years. Five years of social media posts could likely make anyone look suspicious, and now it may count against one's visa.

Hand Over Your Social Media Names

As Reuters reports, the Trump administration now requires U.S. visa applicants worldwide to disclose their social media handles, which will be taken into account when deciding whether or not they can get a visa to visit or work in the United States.

The expanded questionnaire [PDF] also requires applicants to submit their email addresses, past addresses, phone numbers, travel history, previous employment, and more.

According to Reuters, a State Department official says that the additional information will help "confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting."

Technically Optional, But Not Really

These questions covering social media are technically optional, but the questionnaire does mention that failing to answer could result in a delay or even prevent the processing of the visa.

The new questionnaire is part of the Trump administration's effort to implement "extreme vetting" to boost national security.

The tougher vetting will likely increase the duration of the whole process, which is already quite slow. At the same time, it could discourage international scientists, students, and workers from attempting to enter the United States.

Social Media Screening Process

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that the social media screening process will affect roughly 65,000 people per year. The OMB further notes that consular officials will have full authority to require visa applicants to submit their information if they believe they "warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities."

Consular officials will not, however, require applicants to hand over their passwords. The agency has approved the expanded questionnaire for the next 180 days.

U.S. border officials are already asking people for their social media handles when they arrive at the border, which stirred a great deal of controversy. The expanded questionnaire is just the latest in a number of controversial measures designed to better control immigration, including the executive order from January which banned people from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States. A federal judge later blocked that order, but the Trump administration still seeks to enforce it.

Speaking with an OMB spokesperson, CNET learned that visa applicants who never used any social media platform will not be denied a visa because they failed to submit their social media handle.

© 2018 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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