US to demand social media info from visa applicants

People seeking a US visa may soon be required to disclose their social media information so that five years’ worth of their online footprint can be scrutinised. It was previously reserved for people from terrorism-affected states.

Diplomats and travellers facing extreme medical situations are to be exempt from the new, more rigorous vetting procedure proposed by the US State Department. All others, including immigrants and standard visitors, will have to disclose their accounts on a list of social media use in the past five years, as well as telephone numbers and email accounts used in the same period. Additional information may be required by the US government. Even the people with exemptions could be required to provide their social media info on some occasions.

Similar rules were previously in place for people perceived as a potential security risk, for instance those coming from countries with significant terrorist activity. The change is less severe than what was earlier proposed by some US officials. For instance, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said people coming to America should be required to give up their social media passwords for checks. The level of access to travellers’ personal devices that officers of the US Customs and Border Patrol are allowed to receive was somewhat restricted in January.

The change may be disputed by the public in the next 60 days, once the department submits its proposal to the Federal Register. So far there has been plenty of response online about how people will now be rejected visas for joking about America and concerns about possible privacy violations.

“Looks like the US is finally going to win one of its many impossible wars... the war on tourism!” says another one comment on the popular Reddit website.

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