US asks visa applicants for social media handles

  • US asks visa applicants for social media handles

US asks visa applicants for social media handles

Travelers wishing to visit the United States can now be asked for their social media handles and email addresses going back five years, a new us government request that's alarmed privacy advocates but which the Trump Administration says could help weed out travelers who intend harm.

An updated version of the supplemental visa application questionnaire asks would-be visitors for not only details of their travel and address history, but also for the names they use on social media.

A new visa application implemented by the State Department works to implement President Trump's goal of "extreme vetting". Visa applicants must now supply their social media account handles and fifteen years of biographical information. Form DS-5535 also asks travelers to provide biographical information going back 15 years.

This can be requested when "more rigorous national security security vetting" is needed, a State Department official told Reuters.

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.

A screenshot of the new social media questions section in the U.S. visa application form.

Nevertheless, she added, these changes will "affect only a fraction of one percent of the more than 13 million annual visa applicants worldwide".

"We are very concerned that if the proposed changes are implemented, global undergraduate and graduate students, scholars, and scientific collaborators may be discouraged from coming to the United States", the letter said. The majority of the commenters opposed the new procedures, many of whom thought students' social media presence could face higher scrutiny if they had to provide such information.

He further said that the fact remains that under United States immigration law the burden is on the alien to prove to the government that he/she is admissible to the U.S. and at a time when social media accounts are used for everything including Daesh (ISIS, ISIL, a terrorist organization banned around the world) propaganda and recruitment, it doesn't make sense not to be using it.

As was being anticipated, Trump administration is topping its paperwork walls with new requirements for social media disclosures as part of revised visa applications.