What just happened? The Trump administration is bringing in new rules first proposed in March 2018, whereby visa applicants must hand over details of any social media channels they have, as well as any email addresses and phone numbers from the last five years.
One of the major platforms that President Trump was elected on was reducing immigration to the US. While little has been done so far to bring down the number of people coming to the country, new changes have been made to empower immigration officials when screening applications.
As of Friday, almost all visa applications now must include a person’s social media profile information, plus email addresses and phone numbers from the last five years. Exceptions will only be made for a few types of diplomatic and official visa requests.
Until now, social media information has only been a requirement on visa applications from people who needed ‘additional vetting’, meaning people who have been to suspicious or coming from hostile territories like Syria, Iraq or North Korea.
People applying for a visa will have to give details of any accounts they have on a predetermined list of major social platforms, though in the future other smaller sites will be included, too.
Speaking to Hill.TV, a Department of State official said, "social media can be a major forum for terrorist sentiment and activity. This will be a vital tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals from gaining immigration benefits and setting foot on U.S. soil."
While some have expressed concerns that this is an invasion of privacy, to me it seems more like making official a practice that undoubtedly happened anyway. Any investigation into who a person is and what they believe – whether for a new job or in this case entry to a country – would likely include checks on social media. This move will likely just make it easier for immigration officials to find people’s profiles.
The State official added that there would be “serious immigration consequences” for anyone found to be lying about their social presence.