Nearly everyone applying for a visa to enter the United States will have to provide their social media accounts as well as other detailed personal information as part of the Trump administration's "extreme vetting" process for all immigrants and visitors.
The U.S. State Department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to require applicants to provide five years' worth of social media user names, telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status. They will also be asked whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
The new rules, first proposed in 2018, are expected to affect nearly 15 million people, including those applying to immigrate to the U.S., as well as those hoping to study, do business, work or just visit. Only applicants for diplomatic and official visas could be exempt from the new rules.
Previously, detailed information on personal activity was only sought from applicants who were deemed a possible security risk. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year fell into that category.
"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 in a release.
Besides the social media platforms based in the U.S. like Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube, applicants will also be asked about activity of international platforms, such as China's Douban, QQ and Sina Weibo.
Applicants do have the option of saying they have no social media accounts. But, the State Department has warned that lying about social media use would have “serious immigration consequences” for applicants, The Hill reported.
Companies in China that help students navigate the process of getting into U.S. colleges and universities are telling their clients to avoid posting sensitive terms such as “maternity hotel,” “give birth to babies in the U.S.,” “guns,” “green card,” immigrant,” “buy property in the U.S.” on their social media platforms, The South China Morning Post reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced opposition to the new requirements since they were first proposed last year.
“There is also no evidence that such social media monitoring is effective or fair, especially in the absence of criteria to guide the use of social media information in the visa adjudication process,” the ACLU said at the time.