Those seeking a visa to enter the United States will now have to air out their dirty social media laundry, which could bring the approval process to an agonizingly slow pace.
The Trump administration recently released a lengthy new questionnaire for visa applicants that goes above and beyond all previous such measures, according to a Reuters report. After a contentious public comment period, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the expansive questionnaire on May 23.
Among the new fields is a section dedicated solely to social media, in which applicants are asked to provide their “unique user name” for any online service used to “create or share content” over the past five years.
Consular officials can also now ask applicants for all prior passport numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, and 15 years of biographical information under the new protocol, making the application process much more burdensome for those looking to enter the United States.
Completing all fields of the questionnaire is voluntary — but the language at the bottom of the form clearly states that failure to provide the information “may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application.”
The strict new questionnaire doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. The State Department first proposed the new application parameters early last month as part of its initiative to follow through on the president’s promise for “extreme vetting” of those entering the United States.
The new application isn’t as visible as the failed travel bans that the president has attempted to push through via executive orders — but they could affect even more people.
Reuters reports that State Department officials said they will request the additional information of applicants when it’s decided that extra steps are needed to “confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” a condition that essentially gives official carte blanche to conduct the searches on whomever they please, for any reason.
That’s a shift from what was originally described when the initiative was first announced—then, only visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities” were said to be facing the additional scrutiny. The State Department estimated only 0.5 percent of the annual applicant pool, or about 65,000 people, would be under the additional scrutiny.
The application isn’t so intrusive that it asks for access to those social media accounts — requests like that are more likely to come from border officials on the spot, after all — but the barrier for entry into the country is now raised.
Think about the various profiles and online accounts you’ve set up over the years. Can you recall every single one of them?
The same goes for the 15-year window required for the biographical information, which could also be used to catch applicants making innocent mistakes and give officials an excuse to keep them out of the country.
It’s just another step to make it easier for the administration to block anyone they want from entering the U.S. — whether they’re a true threat to national security or not.