In a broad expansion of the information gathered from applicants for U.S. visas, the federal government is proposing to collect social media identities from nearly everyone who seeks entry into the United States, according to a State Department filing on Friday.
The proposal, which must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), would require most immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants to list on a federal application form all of the social media identities they have used in the past five years.
The information will be used to vet and identify them, according to the proposals, which would affect about 14.7 million people annually.
Previously, under rules instituted in May of 2017, consular officials were instructed to collect social media identifiers only when they determined “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” a State Department official said at the time.
The State Department said then that the tighter vetting would apply only to those “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
The new proposal was published in the Federal Register on Friday. The public has 60 days to comment on the revised procedures before the OMB approves or rejects them.
The proposals support President Donald Trump’s promise to institute “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the United states in order to prevent terrorism.
If approved, the measures also will require applicants to submit five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses and their international travel history. They will be asked if they have been deported or removed from any country and whether family members have been involved in terrorist activities, the department said.
The department said it intends not to routinely ask most diplomatic and official visa applicants for the additional information. (Reuters)