As if it isn’t already difficult for immigrants and visitors to come to the U.S., the government is peering into their social media use. The government will also ask to see who you email and who you call.
Announced a year ago, the new requirement will go into effect this month as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” policy in an attempt to screen out would-be terrorists.
Almost everyone seeking a visa to travel or immigrate to the US will have to list five years worth of social media profiles on their visa applications. Applicants will also have to supply five years of email addresses and phone numbers. These requirements, which previously only applied to applicants flagged for additional vetting, are expected to affect approximately 15 million visa applicants annually.
This new required information is on top of providing details about family members, travel and work history, financial security, where one lived and more.
“People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in a statement.
“There is also no evidence that such social media monitoring is effective or fair, especially in the absence of criteria to guide the use of social media information in the visa adjudication process.”
“There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travelers from Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security,” the ACLU statement continued.
“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 US soil,” said a State Department official.
An estimated 14 million travelers and 710,000 immigrants who come to the U.S. each year will be affected by the changes, according to notes in the Federal Register.
The official said national security is the top priority and every would-be traveler or immigrant already faced screening, including requirements to list their travel history, family member information, and previous addresses.
The ACLU had opposed the proposal, arguing the questions would create “an environment ripe for profiling and discrimination.”
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