US visa ap­pli­cants to be asked for so­cial me­dia his­tory


In a broad ex­pan­sion of the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from ap­pli­cants for US visas, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is propos­ing to col­lect so­cial me­dia iden­ti­ties from nearly ev­ery­one who seeks en­try into the US, ac­cord­ing to a State Depart­ment fil­ing on Fri­day.

The pro­posal, if ap­proved by the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get (OMB), would re­quire most im­mi­grant and non-im­mi­grant visa ap­pli­cants to list all 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 last May, 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 Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union ex­pressed con­cern, say­ing the move would have a “chill­ing” ef­fect on free­dom of speech and as­so­ci­a­tion.

“Peo­ple will now have to won­der if what they say on­line will be mis­con­strued or mis­un­der­stood by a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial,” Hina Shamsi, di­rec­tor ACLU’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Project, said in a state­ment.

“There is a real risk that so­cial me­dia vet­ting will un­fairly tar­get im­mi­grants and trav­el­ers from Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries for dis­crim­i­na­tory visa de­nials, with­out do­ing any­thing to pro­tect na­tional se­cu­rity.”

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.

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