Background Checks for US Visas to Include Social Media Accounts
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Under a newly approved information collection procedure, some foreigners applying for US visas will be asked for extensive background information, including biographical data for the previous 15 years and social media handles going back as far as five years.
The new set of supplemental questions (warning: this form is a downloadable PDF document), which were proposed by the State Department and approved last month by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), asks applicants to provide details about all employers in the last 15 years, as well as every trip taken outside of the country of residence during that time, including locations visited, date visited, source of funds and length of stay. It also asks applicants to provide all email addresses associated with work, school or personal use and the “unique user name for any websites or applications you have used to create or share content (photos, videos, status updates, etc.) as part of a public profile within the last five years.”
According to the OMB, the questions will not be asked of every applicant, but rather “when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny.” The OMB also notes that “Consular officers will not request user passwords and will not attempt to subvert any privacy controls the applicants may have implemented on social media platforms.”
Both the instructions on the form as well as the OMB’s request for public comment (which closed in May) note that answering the new supplemental questions is voluntary. However, failure to answer the questions “may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application.”
The State Department states it is collecting the additional information in order to deliver on the March 6 directive of the President to “implement additional protocols and procedures focused on ‘ensur[ing] the proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, or grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits.'” The President previously implemented two different bans on immigrant travel from six (originally seven) countries. However, those directives have been placed on hold by a number of federal courts. Those rulings were appealed last week and will be brought to the Supreme Court by the Trump Administration.
Featured image courtesy of Fernando Takashi Silva/Getty Images.
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