Foreigners applying for a visa to enter the United States will now be asked to turn over their social media handles for the past 5 years, as well as biographical information – including email addresses & phone numbers – for the past fifteen years.
A new questionnaire, to be filled out by visa applicants, is part of an effort by the Donald Trump administration to make enough on its vow to implement “extreme vetting.”
The questionnaire was approved last month by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to Reuters, which is “required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” according to a State Dept. spokesperson.
The OMB told in a federal filing that it expects 65,000 people will be affected by the social media screening method each year.
The agency continued that consular officials visa applicants will have free rein to ask applicants to turn over their information who they believe may “warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
Consular officers will not request user passwords, the filing told.
Immigration experts & attorneys have slammed the move, suggesting that the consular’s power to arbitrarily ask some applicants to fill out the form without any apparent checks could lead to an abuse of power.
Although the form says that providing the information is “voluntary” and does not automatically bar the applicant receiving a US visa, the form does warn that failure to hand over the information may “delay or prevent” the application.
The move comes as the Donald Trump administration has pushed for greater scrutiny of visa applicants at United States embassies abroad, where constitutional & legal protections against unreasonable searches and seizures typically don’t apply.
The administration has also reportedly considered further screening measures for overseas visitors applicants, including those in Europe, by forcing applicants to turn over their phones & their passwords.