On March 30th, the State Department released a proposal that would greatly slow processing for all visa classifications and provide sensitive data to the State Department officials. In response to the Trump Administration policies towards ‘extreme vetting’ of foreign nationals entering the United States, the State Department announced that it would begin to screen the social media accounts of all visa applicants.
The proposal, if approved by the Office of Management and Budget OMB, would require those who fill out any type of nonimmigrant visa application to list all identifiers (i.e. handles, account names, etc.) used within the last five years. According to The New York Times, applicants would have to provide social media handles used for any of the following social media platforms: Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and YouTube, Douban, QQ, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Youku, Twoo, and Ask.fm. The proposed changes would affect nearly 14 million foreign nationals who enter the U.S. annually for a variety of reasons.
If approved, the new screening procedures would likely slow the visa allocation processes. The data collection processes requires consular officers to collect years of data of social media content. Although the provision would not impact foreign national visitors from countries included in the Visa Waiver Program, it would impact millions of visitors annually. Many groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU, have openly opposed the new proposal because the screening procedures infringe upon the privacy and rights of foreign nationals. If the State Department receives funds for the new procedure, the change would be yet another move from the Trump Administration to curb legal immigration into the U.S.