Reports about the US asking visa applicants for social media passwords have been rife in the media during the past few weeks. Although there are several changes planned for the US visa procedures, be aware of the danger of sensationalism and fake news.
Here’s what to tell your customers:
The US State Department is indeed planning to tighten visa procedures and has officially asked for public comments on its proposal.
The Department proposes requesting the following information, if not already included in a visa application, from a certain number of visa applicants worldwide:
- Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
- Address history during the last fifteen years;
- Employment history during the last fifteen years;
- All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
- Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
- Name and dates of birth for all children;
- Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
- Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
- Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.
The reason the US wants to collect this information is to ‘more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities’.
The Department has pointed out that most of this information is already collected on visa applications but for a shorter time period, e.g. five years rather than fifteen years.
Requests for names and dates of birth of siblings and, for some applicants, children are new. The request for social media identifiers and associated platforms is new for the Department of State, although it is already collected on a voluntary basis by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for certain individuals.
The Department further said visas may not be denied on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.