US immigration

US wants social media details, email addresses and phone numbers from all visa applicants

The proposal, which could affect nearly 15 million applications a year, would demand usernames, email addresses and telephone numbers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 2:20am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 7:19pm

The US State Department wants to demand social media usernames, previous email addresses and telephone numbers from all visa applicants, vastly expanding the Trump administration’s enhanced vetting of potential immigrants and visitors.

In documents to be published in Friday’s Federal Register, the department said it wants the public to comment on the proposed new requirements, which would affect nearly 15 million travellers who apply for visas to enter the US each year. 

Previously, social media, email and phone number histories have only been sought from applicants identified for extra scrutiny, such as those who have travelled to areas controlled by terrorist organisations. An estimated 65,000 people each year are in that category.

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants would be asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members had been involved in terrorist activities.

Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types may be exempted from the requirements, according to the documents.

The new rules would apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

The department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants, including those who want to travel to the US for business or education, according to the documents.

The documents were posted on the Federal Register’s website on Thursday but the 60-day public comment period will not begin until Friday’s edition is published.

Uncertain future for ‘Dreamer’ immigrants in US

If the requirements are approved by the Office of Management and Budget, applications for all visa types would list a number of social media platforms and require applicants to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. 

Applicants would also have the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed in the application.