The United States State Department on Friday, May 31, issued a policy that requires visa applicants to provide the details of their social media accounts including their usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers.
In an article from Rappler, the U.S. embassy’s visa application portal was revised to cover the “social media identifiers” that would aid the administration to enhance the screening process of potential visitors and immigrants.
“Do you have a social media presence? Select from the list below each social media platform you have used within the last 5 years. In the space next to the platform’s name, enter the username or handle you have used on that platform. Please do not provide your passwords,” it stated.
The social media platforms listed were Ask.fm, Douban, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, Qzone (QQ), Reddit, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tumblr, Twitter, Twoo, Vine, Vkontakte (VK), Youku, and Youtube.
“If you have used more than one platform or more than one username or handle on a single platform, click the ‘Add Another’ button to list each one separately. If you have not used any of the listed social media platforms in the last 5 years, select ‘None’,” it added.
The account information requirements were added to both immigrant and non-immigrant forms. Such account information would give the government access to photos, locations, dates of birth, dates of milestones and other personal data commonly shared on social media.
“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 as reported by the Associated Press.
“We already request certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants. We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States,” it added.
In the past, social media, email and phone number histories had only been sought from applicants who previously travelled to areas or countries under the control of terrorist organizations. More or less 65,000 applicants annually would be recorded in that category.
The department said that the additional information from more applicants “will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.” A total of 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants will be affected by the revision, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education. Only applicants for diplomatic and official visas can be exempted from the rule, the AP said. (Nathalie Robles/AJPress)