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Visa Applicants May Soon be Required to Turn Over Social Media Handles

The Trump administration has just announced plans to start requiring a majority of visa applicants to turn over five years of social media history when applying for entry into the U.S.; countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program would be exempt from this new requirement. The move follows the President’s emphasis on “extreme vetting” and would put the social media handles of nearly 15 million would-be immigrants under a microscope. 
The decision, however, will not take effect immediately. The planned changes were published in the Federal Register on March 30 which started a 60-day clock for the public to comment on the move. The new vetting protocol would cover 20 social media platforms, and most of them are based in the United States such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, Myspace, Flickr, Google+ and LinkedIn. Several, however, are based and operated overseas, including Douban, QQ, Sina, Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Youku, VK, Twoo and
Keep in mind, this is not the first time the White House has attempted to collect social media information from travelers coming to the U.S. Following the San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2015, the Obama administration placed greater attention on immigrant’s social media use when it was revealed that one of the attackers had used social media to advocate jihad. Government officials acknowledged the fact that they had missed signs of online radicalization in an online-messaging platform used by the couple who carried out the attack. On top of that, just last year the State Department released a supplemental questionnaire that requested applicant’s biographical information from the previous 15 years and social media handles from the past five. For more information on the supplemental questionnaire, check out our blog. 
In addition to providing social media handles, applicants will also need to hand over previous telephone and passport numbers, email addresses, prior immigration violations and any family history of involvement in terrorist activities. 
Berardi Immigration Law will continue to closely monitor this and will be sure to inform our clients of the most up-to-date immigration news. Be sure to check our blog frequently for the latest information!