US requests data from social networks to visa applicants

The United States now requires almost all visa applicants to provide their user names on social networks, previous email addresses, and telephone numbers. It is a huge expansion of the controls applied by the Donald Trump government to immigrants and potential visitors.

The State Department said it has updated the forms to include additional information, which includes "social network identifiers" for almost all applicants. It is expected that the change, proposed in March 2018, will affect the approximately 15 million foreigners who apply for a visa each year.

"National security is our main priority when evaluating visa applications, and every future traveler and immigrant to the United States is subject to extensive security controls," the department said. "We are constantly working to find protection mechanisms for US citizens while supporting legitimate travel to the United States."

In the past, only social media, email and telephone records were requested of applicants identified for further investigation, such as those who had traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. Annually, 65 thousand travelers fit into this category.

The department said that the additional information required from more applicants "will reinforce our process to investigate those applicants and confirm their identity."

The new rules apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. When initially notified of the change, the department estimated that it would affect some 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, including those traveling for business or education.

The new forms include a list of social media platforms and require the applicant to include the names they have used in the last five years. It also allows them to give information about platforms that do not appear in the list.

In addition to the record, applicants must include telephone numbers, emails, international travel status, and deportation and clarify if any family member has been implicated in terrorist activities.

Only applicants for certain types of diplomatic and official visas are exempt.

By Mexicanist Source Agencies

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