There’s a news for people applying for a visa to the United States.
If you are going to apply for a US visa, you will now need to provide your social media information to the visa officials. This new visa policy was first proposed in March 2018 but has just taken effect. However, diplomatic and official visa applicants won’t have to provide these details.
According to a report by the BBC, the new regulations would further require applicants to submit five years’ worth of email addresses and phone numbers. This move comes into place because US Immigration Officials and State Department wants to get thorough details of immigrants and travelers to the US. Additional information for the background scrutiny include social media usernames, email addresses and phone numbers used in the previous five years.
Also, visa applicants will also have to report international travel and deportation status during the same period, as well as if their family members have ever been involved in any kind of terrorist activities.
“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 US State Department said. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect the US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
The policy applies to virtually all applicants of immigrant and non-immigrant visas, including on the purpose of business or education. The US State Department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants each year. This isn’t the first time the US is carrying out this process. However, these kind of measures in the past only affected around 65,000 applicants categorized into extra scrutiny each year, such as those who had a history of travelling to terrorist-controlled areas.
The US State Department has released list of 20 social media platforms viz ASKfm, Douban, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, QZone, Reddit, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tumblr, Twitter, Twoo, Vine, Vkontakte, YouKu and YouTube, and they may add more platforms in the future. They also said that collecting the usernames for platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube will strengthen their process for vetting these applicants and confirming their
“It will infringe on the rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens by chilling freedom of speech and association, particularly because people will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in a statement.
These new rules are introduced as Donald Trump wants to clamp down on immigration and continues to introduce hard screening processes and bureaucratic measures to keep down the number of immigrants and migrants moving to America. The Trump administration had to face heavy backlash from civil liberty groups like ACLU when this screening process was initially introduced. Opponents say that this is an unnecessary step in the President’s goal of limiting immigration into the country. Other critics think the measure won’t be as effective as he hopes because people will just self-censor themselves while using the sites.
By introducing this new process, the US hopes to identify and spot potential extremists who spout their extremist ideologies. They believe that they can easily get to know the ideology of a person by his social media data. We believe this could be right but only upto an extent because people can intentionally keep their accounts clean and get through this screening process easily.