Social Media Vetting Looms For Visa Applicants

Add social media to the list of inputs for vetting U.S. visa applicants.

Various sources, including, reported late last week that the current administration under President Donald J. Trump has debuted a new questionnaire for visa applicants across the globe seeking entry into the United States that considers social media and biographical information.  In the case of the former, data are to stretch across five years, and biographical information will go back 15 years.

The new requests were approved May 23 through the Office of Management and Budget, and came through despite criticism from academic observers.  The objections included that additional information requirements would lead to delays and denials for students and scientists seeking to again entry into the country.  Babak Yousefzadeh, an attorney based in San Francisco who serves as president of the Iranian American Bar Assn., said the additional data sought brings “arbitrary power” to U.S. officials in approving or denying applicants.  “The United States has one of the most stringent visa application processes in the world,” he told CNBC. “The need for tightening the application process further is really unknown and unclear.”

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The data is far ranging, seeking to compile passport numbers, social media identities, employment information and travel history.   And taken together, CNBC noted an unnamed State Department official saying, “Such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.”  Emergency approval for the questions, as mandated by the OMB, is for six months rather than three years, as per the norm.  The questions are voluntary, CNBC reported, but visa processing may be delayed if such information is not included.