Coming to America? The U.S. government wants your Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumbler and Instagram accounts (and more)..
Effective May 31, 2019, all applicants for U.S. visas will be required to disclose “social media identifiers”, as part of the visa application process. The new requirement will apply to both Applications for Non-immigrant Visa, known as the Form DS-160, and to Applications for Immigrant Visa, known as the Form DS-260. This means that the requirement will apply to all persons applying for visas to temporarily enter the U.S. including visitors for business and pleasure, students and exchange visitors, artists, athletes and entertainers, religious workers, journalists, professionals, seasonal workers, crew members and the full array of foreign persons who come to the U.S. for various authorized reasons. It will also apply to persons coming to the U.S. as immigrants, including family-based immigrants, employment-based immigrants, diversity immigrants and others. The new procedure will not (for now) impact individuals from countries that are visa-exempt i.e. Canada or from the 38 countries eligible for Visa Waiver, who use ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) system for immigration pre-clearance.
The new requirement will most directly and most immediately impact the over 10 million foreign persons who apply for U.S. visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world. This includes principal applicants and family members, including children. In addition to requiring disclosure of “social media identifiers”used in the last five years, the new procedures require applicants to disclose any and all e-mail addresses and telephone phone numbers used in the last five years. For additional details from the U.S. Department of State on the new policy, click here.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the inclusion of social media history as part of the visa screening processing will provide additional protection to U.S. citizens. Critics of the new policy argue that the new social media requirement is an invasion of privacy and a violation of the First Amendment. The government has also failed to provide any specific proof that social media reliably identifies national security threats. For additional information about the scope and meaning of the new requirement, click here.