The US State Department has announced that there will be new rules in place for anyone wishing to obtain a visa to enter the United States.
The updated regulations require visa applicants to provide five years worth of email addresses and phone numbers, as well as their social media handles. It is expected to affect 14.7 million people each year – 14 million non-immigrant visas applicants, and 710,000 immigrant visa applicants.
Those applying for certain diplomatic and official visa types will be exempt from the new rules.
‘National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,’ the State Department said.
‘We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.’
They added that the additional information ‘will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity’.
If any individual lies about the information they could face ‘serious immigration consequences’ according to an official who spoke to The Hill.
It was previously used for individuals who required extra vetting, such as those who had travelled to terrorist controlled groups, but will now affect a huge number of those wishing to enter the country.
The Trump administration first proposed the rules in March 2018 but the The American Civil Liberties Union said there was ‘no evidence that such social media monitoring is effective or fair.’
They continued: ‘The government has failed to disclose how this information — accurate or not — may be shared across government agencies and have consequences for individuals living in America, including US citizens.’