US visa applicants may now have to provide social media handles, personal details of past 15 years
However, this only applies to people under ‘additional scrutiny’, the US state department said.
United States President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday unveiled a new questionnaire for visa applicants, which asks for their biographical information over the last 15 years, as well as their social media handles, reported Reuters.
The new questionnaire, which is a step towards stricter vetting for visitors to the US, was approved by the Office of Management and Budget on May 23 despite criticism from education officials and academics.
Under the new procedure, consular officials can ask for all prior passport numbers, social media handles from the past five years, as well as addresses, employment and travel history from the past 15 years.
The US State Department said such additional information will be requested only for visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
However, the Office of Management and Budget has granted emergency approval for the modified questionnaire only for a period of six months.
While answering the questions is voluntary, failure to provide required information could delay the visa application process.
Immigration advocates and lawyers have argued that the new questions grant arbitrary powers to consular officials, and also may force the applicants to make ‘innocent mistakes’ if they do not remember all the information asked for.
Since assuming office in January, Trump has focused on reducing immigration into the US, which was one of his key election campaign promises. He has vowed to increase national security and border protections, give more money to the military and build a wall on the Mexican border paid for by the Mexican government.
Most controversially, Trump has also attempted to ban travel from six Muslim-majority countries, a decision that was struck down by several district courts in the country.