US now seeking social media details from all visa applicants

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. It's a vast expansion of the Trump administration's enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

In a move that's just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including "social media identifiers," from almost all U.S. applicants.

The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.

"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 department said. "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."

Social media, email and phone number histories had only been sought in the past from applicants who were identified for extra scrutiny, such as people who'd traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year had fallen into that category.

The department says collecting the additional information from more applicants "will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity."

Related: Homeland Security (shutdown, visa, waivers)

11 PHOTOS
Homeland Security (shutdown, visa waivers)
See Gallery
Homeland Security (shutdown, visa waivers)
Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, listens during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, speaks during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, questions Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, not pictured, during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, makes an opening statement during a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing with Joseph Clancy, director of the U.S. Secret Service, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. Clancy said it's unacceptable that it took five days for him to learn of allegations of misconduct involving two agents. The episode, under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, follows a series of lapses by agents that brought new leadership to the agency, along with scrutiny from lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 18: Vilvoorde, Belgium, Mayor Hans Bonte participates in a panel discussion during the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building February 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. In the wake of last month's slaughter of journalists and police officers in Paris by Muslim extremists, Hidalgo said Paris plans to sue Fox News for 'inaccurate reports' about Muslim 'no-go areas.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus talks to a reporter after attending the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol February 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats filibustered the legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department because it included a measure to roll back President Obama's executive order on immigration. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 02: US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the Department of Homeland Security about his newly revealed budget and Republicans threat to not approve funding for the agency in Washington, D.C. on February 02, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An employee sits at his computer terminal within the National Operations Center (NOC) at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC, February 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his Fiscal Year 2016 Budget at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Feb. 2, 2015. Obama sent Congress a $4 trillion budget that would raise taxes on corporations and the nation's top earners, spend more on infrastructure and housing, and stabilize, but not eliminate, the annual budget deficit. Photographer: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 02: US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the Department of Homeland Security about his newly revealed budget and Republicans threat to not approve funding for the agency in Washington, D.C. on February 02, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson walks on Capitol Hill February 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The new rules apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. When it filed its initial notice to make the change, the department estimated it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education.

The new visa application forms list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. They also give applicants the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed on the form.

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

Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.