Collection of Social Media Identifiers from U.S. Visa Applicants

On May 31, 2019, the Department of State updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application forms to request additional information, including social media identifiers, from most U.S. visa applicants worldwide. This update is a result of the President’s March 6, 2017, Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits and Section 5 of Executive Order 13780 regarding implementing uniform screening and vetting standards for visa applications. 

Under this State Department policy, almost all visa applicants to the United States will now be required to submit the social media usernames, email addresses and phone numbers they’ve used in the past five years. Previously, only a select number of visa applicants who’d been singled out for additional scrutiny had been required to submit their social media, email and phone number histories. Under the new policy, however, only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types will be exempted from this requirement. Almost 15 million visa applicants are expected to be impacted by the policy change. 

Since visa programs often work in a reciprocal manner between countries, it may not be long before other countries follow the lead of the U.S. and begin requiring visa applicants, including U.S.  citizens, to provide similar information on their visa applications.