The Trump administration is set to implement a new policy requiring that most applicants for U.S. visas share information about their social media use.
A U.S. Department of State official said that the new requirement will serve as a “vital tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals” from gaining immigration benefits and entering the United States, the Hill reported.
“This is a critical step forward in establishing enhanced vetting of foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States,” the official told The Hill.
“As we’ve seen around the world in recent years, social media can be a major forum for terrorist sentiment and activity.”
Most foreign nationals seeking a U.S. visa—including non-immigrant, employment, student, tourist, and business visas—will be asked by the State Department to share about their social media accounts in a drop-down menu, the official said.
The current drop-down menu currently contains major social media websites, but in the future applicants can list all sites they use. There is also the option to indicate if they do not use social media.
The official said that if an applicant is found to have lied about their social media use, they could face “serious immigration consequences.”
— The Hill (@thehill) May 31, 2019
In the case of when a visa applicant claims they don’t have a social media account but is found to have one, they could be permanently banned from getting a U.S. visa, a State Department official told Breitbart.
The applicants would undergo a background check that incorporates the social media information they disclose. Their identities would also be checked against U.S. government watchlists.
Part of the new policy will also require that applicants disclose a more detailed history of where they have previously traveled for the same reasons, according to The Hill.
In March 2018, the State Department proposed to implement the policy to collect social media identities. Reuters reported at the time that such a policy would affect about 14.7 million people annually.
— Steve Parks (@steveparks) May 31, 2019
According to Reuters, the department said last year that applicants may also be required to submit five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses and their international travel history. They may be asked if they have been deported or removed from any country and whether family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
However, the department also said it doesn’t intend to routinely ask most diplomatic and official visa applicants for the additional information.
In December 2015, two terrorists—Pakistani national Tashfeen Malik and her U.S.-born husband Syed Farook—murdered 14 people in a deadly shooting in Bernardino, California.
Tashfeen Malik discussed jihad on social media before San Bernardino shooting | Daily Mail Onlinehttps://t.co/90ocgHV8Si
— maureen hills (@SafetyB0nes) May 26, 2019
One of the terrorists, Malik, was able to enter the United States as a legal immigrant through the K-1 visa.
The State Department had failed in three background checks to find Malik’s social media posts, where she had written about jihad.