The State Department wants to require all US 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 on 30 March’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 US 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 7,10,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the US for business or education, according to the documents.
The documents were posted on the Federal Register’s website on 29 March but the 60-day public comment period won’t begin until 30 March’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.