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U.S. starts requiring social media details for visas

MANILA, Philippines – The United States has begun requiring visa applicants to submit details of their social media accounts, as the superpower tightens vetting procedures for millions of its visitors.

Rappler accessed the US embassy's visa application portal, and found the added requirement to disclose the maintenance of social media accounts and to share their "identifiers."

After requiring personal information, the visa application portal asks:

"Do you have a social media presence? Select from the list below each social media platform you have used within the last 5 years. In the space next to the platform's name, enter the username or handle you have used on that platform. Please do not provide your passwords. If you have used more than one platform or more than one username or handle on a single platform, click the 'Add Another' button to list each one separately. If you have not used any of the listed social media platforms in the last 5 years, select 'None.'"

In this order, the listed social media platforms in the portal were: Ask.fm, Douban, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, Qzone (QQ), Reddit, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tumblr, Twitter, Twoo, Vine, Vkontakte (VK), Youku, and Youtube.

REQUIRED. The US visa application portal adds a Social Media section in asking for information from applicants. Rappler screenshot

REQUIRED. The US visa application portal adds a Social Media section in asking for information from applicants.

Rappler screenshot

The Associated Press (AP) reported on Saturday, June 1, that social media requirements were added to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms. The addition was proposed as early as March 2018.

Citing an unnamed State Department official, The Hill said the social media identifiers "will be incorporated into a background check review against watchlists generated by the US government."

Quoted by the AP, the US State Department said, "National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening."

In the past, social media details were only required for visa applicants that the US deemed to be needing additional scrutiny.

In addition to their social media histories, the AP reported that visa applicants would have to share 5 years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation statuses, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

It remains unclear whether the addition to visa applications have been implemented across the world.

Only applicants for diplomatic and official visas can be exempted from the rule, the AP said. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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