US visa applicants to disclose social media accounts

The US State Department of State (DoS) is now requiring social media details from most visa applicants. Unlike previous practice where only applicants that are flagged for additional vetting were asked for social media information, almost all visa applicants are now required to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses, and phone numbers. This follows the application of the March 2018 regulation that only exempts certain diplomatic and official visa applicants from disclosing their social media history.

According to reports, the US DoS State Department is reported to have explained the requirement as a way to improve screenings, to protect US citizens while promoting legitimate travel. It is estimated that approximately 14.6 million people apply for US visas annually.

The new visa application form names social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube and provides spaces for additional platforms not listed. Applicants are also required to list social media accounts and emails they have used in the previous five years.

Civil rights groups questioned the efficacy of social media vetting, saying that it could have a chilling effect on online freedom of expression online.