Those wishing to obtain an immigrant or non-immigrant U.S. Visa may have one more hurdle. The State Department has proposed asking additional questions about applicants’ social media information, including user names and email addresses dating back five years. Approximately 14 million travelers would be affected by the new proposals with another 700,000 affected in the immigration system.
Although the U.S. had already toughened visa scrutiny by requesting up to 15 years of social media history from applicants suspected to represent a national security threat, that policy targeted a much smaller number of international travelers to the US, about 65,000 or 0.5% of all applicants.
The new rules would demand that applicants list a five-year history of social media handles, email addresses, telephone numbers, a record of international travel, and any previous immigration issues. Those applying for a visa could also have to answer questions about family ties to terrorism.
The proposal will undergo a 60-day public comment period before it can be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. Since President Trump took office, legal immigration has seen a stream of new measures that have bogged down the process of obtaining visas.
If approved, the new requirements could cause a backlog of work for visa approval, creating a longer waiting period between application and approval/denial. Some travel experts worry that the extended requirements could dissuade a portion of U.S. travel altogether, fearing that those travelers may opt for easier locations rather than exhaustively list five years’ worth of history.
The department said the proposals are part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to implement “extreme vetting” on immigration.
An applicant’s refusal to provide social media history could not be used as the exclusive reason to deny a visa.
The 60-day public comment period for the proposed changes began March 30.