The State Department is proposing to ask additional questions of visa applicants regarding their social media usage. The department is seeking public comment on proposals to ask applicants for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to list all social media user names used over the past five years. Other new questions being proposed would ask applicants to provide a five-year history of their telephone numbers, email addresses and international travel; to list previous immigration violations or deportations; and to disclose whether “specified” family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
The New York Times reported that nearly 14.7 million people per year would be asked to disclose their social media user names if the new proposals go into effect. The director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, Hina Shamsi, described the proposal as "ineffective and deeply problematic," with chilling effects on free speech and association "particularly because people will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official.”
In a statement provided to the Times, the State Department said, “Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats … Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”