US State Dept: Visa applicants to be asked for social media history

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A proposed State Department form would require all USA visa applicants to disclose their social media handles, according to a Bloomberg report.

Donald Trump's administration had signalled plans for some visa applicants to be asked for social-media data.

Besides providing history for their social media accounts, applicants will be required to provide details of their previous phone number as well as names they would have used in the past and their past email addresses.

But around 10 million non-immigrant visa applicants who seek to come to the United States can also look forward to social media screening.

After publication, the proposals will allow 60 days for public comment before the policies are finalized later this year.

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If approved, the rule would affect roughly 14.7 million people every year, according to Reuters.

"Under this proposal, almost all USA visa applicants will be asked to provide additional information, including their social media identifiers, prior passport numbers, information about family members, and a longer history of past travel, employment, and contact information than is collected in current visa application forms", the spokesperson said. They would also be required to report whether certain family members have been involved in "terrorist activities".

We reported back in December 2016 that the USA had begun asking foreign travelers for their usernames for Instagram and other social media services in a new "optional" section of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (which allows citizens of 38 countries to visit the U.S. for 90 days without a visa).

It's a vast expansion of the Trump administration's enhanced vetting of potential immigrants and visitors. Now that the rivalry between the US and Russian Federation is brewing again, the US State Department has invoked new rules of immigration clearance based on the past social media interactions, opinions and support explicitly made by the visitors or immigrants. Additional platforms will be added only if collection is consistent with the uses described in the Supporting Statement and after Office of Management and Budget approval. The State Department said the only exceptions to these rules would be those applying for diplomatic and official visas.

The social media platforms covered in the proposal include US-based entities such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit and YouTube.

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