Under a new State Department policy, visa applicants now must submit information about any social media accounts that they have used during the past five years, including their social media handles or user names, emails accounts, and telephone numbers. Submitting this information about allow authorities to access any photos, milestones, demographic data, and comments posted on these sites by applicants.
While the State Department had requested that visa applicants voluntarily submit this information beginning during the Obama Administration, it now is a requirement. Furthermore, the State Department previously was collecting social media information only from those visa applicants whom they had identified for additional scrutiny, such as those who had traveled to countries known to be controlled by terrorist groups. This group amounted to about 65,000. Now, except for a few applicants for official and diplomatic visas, everyone must submit the information. The policy change is expected to impact more than 15 million people.
Opponents of the policy have objected to it as overly broad and an intrusive breach of privacy for visa applicants. They also criticize the federal government for not stating how they would use the information gleaned from social media, or how that information about be a reliable sign that a person posed a security threat if allowed into the country.
The newly required social media information for visa applicants is part of the Trump Administration’s 2017 memorandum in which it announced that they would subject individuals coming to the U.S. to extreme “vetting” to minimize any security risks from entering the country. The federal government has categorized this information as part of the other demographic information that they require visa applicants to provide to confirm their identities. The State Department claims that the information will assist it in screening out terrorists and people who are safety threats. The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.