Published: Fri, June 02, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

US new visa screening may seek applicants social media info

US new visa screening may seek applicants social media info

Foreigners applying for a visa to enter the U.S. will now be asked to turn over their social media handles for the past five years, as well as biographical information - including email addresses and phone numbers - for the past 15 years.

Under the new procedure, consular officials can ask for all prior passport numbers, social media handles from the past five years, as well as addresses, employment and travel history from the past 15 years.

The new questions are part of President Donald Trump's efforts, to tighten vetting of would-be visitors to the US.

A portion of the DS-5535 form for visa applicants.

Asserting that national security is a top administration priority when adjudicating visa applications, Cocks said every prospective traveller to the U.S. undergoes extensive security screening.

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"According to ABCnews, a state department official said the top priority at the department is national security and they were working tirelessly to improve the screening processes".

The proposal is open to public comment till May 18, and if approved by Office of Management and Budget, it will apply for just 6 months instead of the usual three years. According to Fortune, the Department of Homeland Security first began requesting information about visitors' social media accounts a year ago while former President Barack Obama was in office.

United States border officials already ask for social media handles when passengers arrive at the border, a recent change that was criticized as "highly invasive" by privacy and rights groups.

The State Department, which issues visas to foreign nationals through its diplomatic missions across the world, said that it started implementing this new change from May 25. According to the new form, the failure to answer the questions will not necessarily bar applicants from admission to the United States.

"In accordance with the president's March 6, 2017 memorandum on enhancing the screening and vetting of applications for visas, the Department of State has begun collecting additional information from visa applicants worldwide when a consular officer determines that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting", he said.

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