Photo used for illustrative purposes.
In a move that's just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including "social media identifiers," from almost all US applicants.
The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.
"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 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."
Social media, email and phone number histories had only been sought in the past from applicants who were identified for extra scrutiny, such as people who'd traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organisations. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year had fallen into that category.
The department says collecting the additional information from more applicants "will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity."
The new rules apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. When it filed its initial notice to make the change, the department estimated it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the US for business or education.
The new visa application forms list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. They also give applicants the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed on the form.
In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements.
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, after Trump blasted the three countries because thousands of their citizens had sought asylum at the US border with Mexico.
The agreement reached in June laid out that if the United States deems that Mexico has not done enough to thwart migrants by the July 22 deadline,
US President Donald Trump, responding to a surge of illegal immigrants across the southern border, vowed on Thursday to impose a tariff on all goods coming from Mexico, starting at 5% and ratcheting much higher until the flow of people ceases.
Burundi’s ruling party youth league is forcing citizens to donate money to fund next year’s election, Human Rights Watch said on Friday, as fears of abuses and renewed violence grow ahead of the vote.
South Africa’s struggling state power utility Eskom warned that power cuts would occur again from 9am (0700 GMT) on Friday until 6am on Saturday, as its generating units continue to perform at low levels of reliability.
Indian police shot dead four men on Friday who were suspected of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian in the southern city of Hyderabad last week, a senior police official told Reuters.