The State Department is now requiring people applying for visas to submit social media names and five years’ worth of email addresses, according to BBC. The policy is yet another of the Trump Administration’s efforts to expand immigration screenings and limit the ability for migrants to enter the US. Previously, this type of screening process would only be required of about 65,000 applicants who needed additional screening, but implementation of the new policy will likely affect 14.7 people per year—710,000 immigrant visa applications and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applications.
“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 State 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.”
The Associated Press reports that this expansion of immigration screenings was initially proposed in March 2018 and has already taken effect thanks to the approval of new application forms that request “social media identifiers” and other personal information. Until now, this kind of information was only extracted from applicants who the government thought required a higher level of scrutiny, such as those who have travelled to regions controlled by terrorist organizations.
Some special applicants may be exempted from the new requirements, such as those applying for certain diplomatic and official visas. For the most part, it will become the norm form immigrants to have to provide five years worth of previously used phone numbers, email addresses, international travel, deportation status, and whether any of their family members have ever been involved in any terrorist activity.
The State department claims that collecting such information from so many applicants “will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”