US to seek social media details from certain visa applicants

The State Department wants to review social media, email addresses and phone numbers from some foreigners seeking U.S. visas, as part of the Trump administration's enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

The department, in a notice published Thursday in the Federal Register, said it was seeking public comment on the requirement. But it also said it is requesting a temporary go-ahead from the White House budget office so the plan can take effect for 180 days, beginning May 18, regardless of those comments.

The proposed requirements would apply to visa applicants identified for extra scrutiny, such as those who have traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. The State Department said it estimates that the rules would affect about 0.5 percent of total U.S. visa applicants, or roughly 65,000 people.

Affected applicants would have to provide their social handles and platforms used during the previous five years, and divulge all phone numbers and email addresses used during that period. U.S. consular officials would not seek social media passwords, and would not try to breach any privacy controls on applicants' accounts, according to the department's notice.

Since last year, immigration officials have sought social media information from some foreigners arriving at U.S. border checkpoints, but that information had not previously been required on visa applications.

Homeland Security officials have said accounts for some asylum seekers and visa applicants would be checked. But those checks would be limited to public postings, raising questions about the effectiveness.

The new State Department rules also would require applicants to provide 15 years of travel and work history and the names and dates of birth of all siblings, children and current and former spouses or partners. Visa applicants are now generally asked for only five years of travel and work history and are not asked for information about their siblings.

The State Department said it wanted the additional information "in order to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related ineligibilities."

The proposal follows a March directive from the State Department for all U.S. embassies and consulates to draw up criteria for "population sets" needing extra scrutiny before receiving U.S. visas.

Thursday's public notice is the first announcement linked to the so-called "extreme vetting" procedures Trump has advocated.


Explore further

US suspends fast-track processing for highly skilled H-1B visa

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: US to seek social media details from certain visa applicants (2017, May 4) retrieved 23 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-05-social-media-visa-applicants.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
16 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

May 04, 2017
Hay, come on! Terrorists have a right to privacy to, at least before they kill 10,0000 people.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more