Visa Applicants Now Required to Disclose Social Media Information

By: Ashik R. Jahan, Esq. & Bara Ahmad

The State Department recently implemented a new policy that requires all visa applicants to provide information about all social media accounts the applicant has been active on over the past five years. Previously, visa applicants were required to provide the U.S. government with information regarding their address history, employment history, travel history, as well as family member information. Requiring visa applicants to disclose information about their social media accounts is precisely what the Trump Administration requested from the secretary of state to increase screening of visa applicants. The Obama administration previously made it optional for applicants to disclose information about their social media accounts.

The new policy broadens surveillance and could potentially decrease the level of privacy as well as have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of citizens, non-citizens, and visa applicants. This added requirement for visa applicants could discourage people from speaking freely on social media accounts that are now an essential aspect of modern life. The U.S. government has not provided any research or evidence that indicates that the added requirement could identify security threats or deter any actions.

While this new policy can help verify facts regarding visa applicant’s travel history and verify an individual’s identity, the systematic review of social media accounts may also penalize applicants for their opinions, religious affiliations, and other subjective conduct that could not be deemed a threat to the United States. Despite lacking any evidence proving this new policy can be effective in screening threats, the additional requirement is nevertheless a new hurdle visa applicants must now address to enter the United States.

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