The United States’ State Department has now made it mandatory for almost all visa applicants to submit details of their social media profiles as well as email addresses and phone numbers from the past five years, BBC reported on Saturday.
While diplomatic or official visa applicants will be exempted, people who want to travel to the US for work or to study will have to submit these details. The policy came into effect on Friday but the US had announced its plan to change its immigrant and non-immigrant visa forms to request this additional information in March 2018. The policy stems from an executive order that President Donald Trump had issued in March 2017 for “extreme vetting”. That order had applied to people who had travelled to countries controlled by terrorists.
“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the State Department said, according to AP. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
Visa applicants will have the option to say that they do not use any social media but they could face “serious immigration consequences” if they lie, an unidentified official told The Hill.
“As we’ve seen around the world in recent years, social media can be a major forum for terrorist sentiment and activity,” the official added. “This will be a vital tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals from gaining immigration benefits and setting foot on US soil.”