In an attempt to enhance vetting of foreign nationals, the US State Department now requires visa applicants to submit five years of their social media details. The applicants have to submit social media usernames, telephone numbers, and previous e-mail addresses.
The rule to add social media data collection for immigrants and non-immigrants was first issued in April 2018. Previously, social media details were only required for individuals whose applications needed further scrutiny. However, now it is required for all immigrant (form DS-260) and non-immigrant (form DS-160) online visa applications.
Applicants also have the option of stating that they don’t use social media but any false statements can result in serious consequences. At present, the drop-down menu in the online visa application has options for major social media platforms but soon other social media site will be listed.
The move is a result of the government’s effort to improve screening of potential immigrants and visitors and will cover all applicants except those applying for certain official and diplomatic visas. It is expected to affect close to 15 million people annually.