The United States government has approved a new requirement for revised visa applications that would allow officials to check applicants’ social media accounts.
According to Reuters, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s decision to include social media disclosures as a requirement was met with objections from the education and academic sector during a public comment period.
The updated questionnaire now includes entries asking for the applicant’s social media handles used over the last five years, in addition to biographical information from the last 15 years.
Critics have blasted the requirement as an effort of the government to make it more difficult for potential immigrants to be approved.
A State Department official told Reuters that the additional information is not mandatory for everyone and would only be requested when officers have determined that “such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.”
Back in March, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and directed tougher visa processes for such groups. The order for “mandatory social media check” at the time was intended for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State.
“What this language effectively does is give the consular posts permission to step away from the focused factors they have spent years developing and revising, and instead broaden the search to large groups based on gross factors such as nationality and religion,” Jay Gairson, a Seattle-based immigration attorney, told Reuters.