US to Require Social Media Usernames of All Visa Applicants

The United States has just proposed new rules that would require all visa applicants to provide their social media usernames from the past 5 years. If you’re thinking of visiting or moving to the US, you may soon have to be okay with officials flipping through your online photos.

We reported back in December 2016 that the US had begun asking foreign travelers for their usernames for Instagram and other social media services in a new “optional” section of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (which allows citizens of 38 countries to visit the U.S. for 90 days without a visa).

Now that request for social media handles may soon become much less optional and much greater in scope.

The US State Department today published public notices for both nonimmigrant visa and immigrant visa (and alien registration) applications.

The Associated Press reports that while the previous optional request applied to an estimated 65,000 per year, these new rules would apply to about 710,000 immigrant visa and 14 million non-immigrant visa applications.

Here’s what the relevant paragraph of the documents says:

The Department also is revising the collection to add several additional questions for nonimmigrant visa applicants. One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifiers used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of application. The platforms listed may be updated by the Department by adding or removing platforms […] The Department will collect this information from visa applicants for identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards.

So the United States will determine a list of social media services that applicants are required to share usernames for, and this list may be changed over time. There will also be an optional section for applicants to share information about social media services not listed on the application.

The public now has 60 days to comment on the proposal.