US begins demanding full social media background from visa applicants

The US State Department has begun requiring visa applicants to submit 5 years’ price of social media historical past, threatening “serious immigration consequences” for many who try to hide their accounts.

Both non permanent guests and people in search of everlasting residence are required to fill out the brand new types, which embody drop-down menus that at the moment record solely the “main” social media platforms. Applicants even have the choice of stating they don’t use social media, however a State Department official informed The Hill that mendacity about such use would have “severe immigration penalties.

After forking over 5 years’ price of social media accounts, applicants should present 5 years of phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and journey historical past. They are additionally requested if relations have been concerned in “terrorist actions,” although it’s unclear why anybody would reply such a query within the affirmative.

This might be an important device to display screen out terrorists, public security threats, and different harmful people,” the official enthused, explaining that the accounts could be labored right into a full background verify towards terror watchlists and that visa functions would ultimately require an much more full journey historical past.

The coverage is unfair to vacationers, putting them on the mercy of presidency officers who may simply misconstrue an internet dialog, the American Civil Liberties Union objected final 12 months after the measure was proposed, including that such misunderstandings may be deliberate, offering excuses to show away “undesirables.”

There is an actual threat that social media vetting will unfairly goal immigrants and vacationers from Muslim-majority international locations for discriminatory visa denials, with out doing something to guard nationwide safety,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, stated in an announcement.

The controversial coverage is a part of an “excessive vetting” regime originating with a March 2017 govt order by President Donald Trump. Tourism to the US has declined steadily since then, notably amongst guests from the Middle East and Africa, these areas most affected by Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.”