The U.S. State Department has announced that it has begun requesting social media information from "most" new visa applicants. Previously, this information had only been requested for applicants who had already been identified as cases that needed to be more closely inspected.
Here's what we know
This move to request social media information was expected, and had first been announced in a public notice from the department on March 30, which allowed for 60 days of public comment before the policy would be implemented.
According to this notice, a new question on visa applications "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." Additionally, "the applicant will be given the option to provide information about any social media identifiers associated with any platforms other than those that are listed that the applicant has used in the last five years." This information would then be used as part of the vetting process.
A State Department official told Hill.TV that visa applicants could choose to say that they did not have any social media accounts, but if they were caught lying they could face "serious immigration consequences."
On Friday, the State Department announced that the new policy was officially going into effect. The department said that this would help with "vetting these [Visa] applicants and confirming their identity." This will apply both to visa applicants who hope to pursue citizenship, and those requesting visas for tourism.
"National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening," the State Department said in a statement. "We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States."