Trump administration approves tougher visa vetting, including social media checks

Jun 02, 2017, 05:10
Trump administration approves tougher visa vetting, including social media checks

While President Donald Trump has pledged to tighten security on United States borders, the social media questionnaire was an initiative launched under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Earlier this year, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told a House committee USA visitors could be asked to surrender passwords for their social media accounts for examination by law enforcement.

The Trump administration proposes a new questionnaire format for visa applicants worldwide that would require social media handles dating back to five years and biographical information going back 15 years. That means a number of folks will be racking their brains to remember the details of the now-abandoned Livejournal account they kept in high school or the Vine/Foursquare/Tumblr accounts they'd totally forgot they opened. After a contentious public comment period, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the expansive questionnaire on May 23.

The same goes for the 15-year window required for the biographical information, which could also be used to catch applicants making innocent mistakes and give officials an excuse to keep them out of the country. "The need for tightening the application process further is really unknown and unclear".

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The majority - 146 - are from Mexico while two are from Russian Federation and one from Cambodia. Anyone not being criminally prosecuted will be processed for deportation, ICE officials said.

The Department of Homeland Security began asking visitors for social media information-including Facebook and LinkedIn accounts-on a voluntary basis a year ago, and the Trump Administration has since moved aggressively to expand the vetting tactic. The Trump administration approved a new visa vetting procedure that would allow officials to request applicants' social media handles.

The application isn't so intrusive that it asks for access to those social media accounts - requests like that are more likely to come from border officials on the spot, after all - but the barrier for entry into the country is now raised. A State Department official told Reuters Wednesday that consular officials will only require applicants to provide additional information when they feel it is needed to "confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting".

Critics argued that the new questions would be overly burdensome, lead to long delays in processing, and discourage global students and scientists from coming to the United States.

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