US visa seekers could undergo social media screening

Nearly 15 million people seeking US visas may face social media checks, under new state department proposal.

    The US public can dispute the new rules and submit comments over the next 60 days [File: Getty Images]
    The US public can dispute the new rules and submit comments over the next 60 days [File: Getty Images]

    Visa seekers for the United States may soon have to submit their social media identities, previous telephone numbers and email addresses, under a new plan proposed by the country's state department.

    According to the filing, which was published on Friday and could affect 14.7 million people each year, visa-seeking visitors or would-be immigrants will be presented with a list of social media platforms.

    Applicants would be required to disclose their social media identifiers so that five years worth of their online activity can be scrutinised.

    "Other questions seek five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travel," the notice, published in the Federal Register, said.

    Diplomats and those travelling on official visas will be exempt from the new measures. 

    Last September, the administration of US President Donald Trump announced that applicants for immigrant visas would be required to submit their social media data in a move affecting around 710,000 people a year.

    The latest proposal has now expanded to include some 14 million people who apply for non-immigrant visas.
         
    When these new rules were first suggested last year as part of what Trump has called "extreme vetting" of future visitors - a major theme during his presidential election campaign - rights groups and civil liberties organisations warned over potential dangers faced by vulnerable people and expressed concerns over privacy and discrimination.

    The public can dispute the new regulation and submit comments over a 60-day period ending on May 29.

    US officials have previously suggested even more stringent measures. Last year John Kelly, former homeland security secretary, proposed that visitors to the US should be required to give their social media passwords.

    "We want to say for instance, 'What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords,' so that we can see what they do on the internet," Kelly had said at a House Committee on Homeland Security meeting.

    "If they don't want to give us that information then they don’t come."

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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