US State Department to seek social media details from visa applicants

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A sign stand is pictured outside the US State Department in Washington, DC. (file photo)

The US State Department has proposed new regulations that will require all foreigners seeking visas to enter the country to submit information about their social media histories to the US government.

The guidelines are set to be published on Friday, requiring all applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas to hand over their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers.

The application forms for US visas, as the department states, would be updated to include a question that lists several social media platforms and asks applicants to provide “any identifiers” they used for the platforms in the five years preceding the application date.

US visa applicants would also be required to provide international travel history for the past five years and to reveal whether they had been deported or removed from another country and whether family members had been involved in terrorist activities.

The new rules would affect an estimated 14 million individuals seeking entry to the United States for business or education and an estimated 710,000 immigrant visa applicants, according to the department.

The department said only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types would be exempted from the requirements.

The proposed regulations will be exposed to public comment on the Federal Register’s website within the next 60 days and will need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget at the White House before finalization later this year.

The measure has been declared as part of US President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to enhance security through “extreme vetting.”

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump campaigned for "a total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States on the pretext of preventing terrorist attacks.

Last month, a US federal appeals court ruled that Trump's travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries violated the American Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion, another legal setback for the policy.

It was the second time a federal appeals court ruled against Trump’s latest travel ban, which is the third version of a series of travel restrictions that the president has issued since taking office in January 2017. The ban targets most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, along with some groups of people from Venezuela.

Trump has said the restrictions are needed to tighten security and prevent terrorist attacks. Opponents say the ban violates the US Constitution because it discriminates against Muslims and certain nationalities.

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