Yesterday 2nd July 2019 the U.S. State Department began implementing its requirement that nearly all U.S. visa applicants submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers as part of the application process.
The new requirement, which could affect up to 15 million would-be travellers to the U.S., is part of a broad expansion of enhanced screening under the Trump administration.
First proposed in March 2018, the State Department only just updated the application forms to request the additional information, aciording to a report from Associated Press.
“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveer and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the department said in a statement to the AP.
“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.”
In the past, this enhanced screening information, including email, phone numbers and social media had only been required for applicants who had been identified for extra scrutiny — primarily people who had travlled to areas with a high degree of terrorist activity. Roughly 65,000 applicants per-year had fallen into that category, according to the AP.
When the State Department first filed its notice of the changes, it estimated that 710,000 immigrant visa applications and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants would be affected — including business and student travelers.
New questions on the visa application forms list social media platforms and require applicants to provide any account names they may have had on them for a five-year period. The forms also request phone numbers and email addresses applicants have used over the past five years, along with their international travel and deportation status and whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.