Each year, approximately 15 million people apply for U.S. visas. The State Department has just announced that it will require every one of them to provide their social media user names, past email addresses and previous phone numbers with their application. Previously, the information had only been required from people who had been selected for additional scrutiny.
The new rule would affect the approximately 14 million people who apply for non-immigrant visas each year, including those seeking temporary visas for business, education or tourism. It will also apply to some 710,000 people who apply each year for immigrant visas, which allow the visa holder to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. The only people exempt from the rule would be people applying for certain types of diplomatic and official visas.
If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the new rule would require each applicant to provide:
- Any accounts within the past five years on specified social media platforms
- All phone numbers and email addresses from the past five years
- Details of international travel
- Deportation status, if applicable
- Information on any family members who have been involved in terrorist activities
It would also give applicants space to volunteer information about accounts on social media platforms not specified in the visa application
In the past, the U.S. has required this information from people who were flagged for extra scrutiny. For example, these people may have traveled to areas the U.S. associates with terrorist activity. This new rule is remarkable in that it no longer distinguishes between potential security threats and ordinary visitors with nothing but good will for the United States.
The announcement was published in Friday’s edition of the Federal Register, which is where proposed and final federal regulations are made available to the public. The proposed rule is open to public comment until May 29. If you are interested in commenting, you may do so.
International travel to the U.S. is becoming more complicated to arrange. If you are planning to apply for any type of American visa, you should contact an immigration attorney to ensure your application is completed correctly and contains all the required information.