Applying for a US visa? Prepare to hand over your social media account details
As announced a little over a year ago, US visa applicants should now expect to be asked for details of their social media accounts. Only certain types of diplomatic and official visa applications are exempt.
As of Friday, the US State Department started to use social media usernames, email addresses and phone numbers as part of its screening process. The use of "social media identifiers" for vetting purposes will apply to almost everyone applying for a US visa, raising all manner of privacy concerns.
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The State Department says that it is demanding more information from applicants as this will "strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity". It is expected that the change will affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants.
In a statement, the department said:
National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening. We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.
Visa applicants are expected to list the social media platforms they have used over the last five years, as well as providing their usernames on these platforms.