Visitors To The US Will Need To Hand Over Their Social Media Info If They Need A Visa

I’ve been following this story for a while now, and it’s finally become reality. The US Government has rolled out a new questionnaire for U.S. visa applicants worldwide that asks for social media handles for the last five years and biographical information going back 15 years. From the report:

The new questions, part of an effort to tighten vetting of would-be visitors to the United States, was approved on May 23 by the Office of Management and Budget despite criticism from a range of education officials and academic groups during a public comment period. Critics argued that the new questions would be overly burdensome, lead to long delays in processing and discourage international students and scientists from coming to the United States. Under the new procedures, consular officials can request all prior passport numbers, five years’ worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history.

Welcome to the world of extreme vetting. And the problem with this is that:

  1. It’s not going to work because nobody who is up to no good is going to serve up any social media information that highlights the fact that they’re up to no good. Nor are they going to make it easy enough to find. Thus I seriously doubt that a single “bad dude” is going to get caught via any sort of extreme vetting.
  2. The unintended side effect of this sort of thing is that nobody is going go to the US. That’s going to have a negative effect on the $1.6 trillion in economic output in 2015 that tourism to the US generates. And according to The IndependentThe Washington Post and even FourSquare, tourism to the US has dropped since President Trump took power in the US. And my wife and I are examples of this as we cancelled a vacation to the US and instead will be road tripping across Canada simply because we do not feel that the US is a good place to go on vacation right now. I also have really cut back on any business trips to the US since Trump became president unless I have no other choice for a similar reason. Thus in the process, depriving the US of additional revenue from the flight, hotel, car rental, restaurants, etc. that my business trips would generate.

I suspect that once jobs start disappearing and the lawsuits start getting filed regarding how overly broad this appears to be, then they may be a rethink of this. We will have to watch and see.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that disclosing your social media is “voluntary” as per this from the Reuters story:

While the new questions are voluntary, the form says failure to provide the information may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application.

So, to me it sounds like you pretty much have to hand this info over if you want your visa application processed in a timely manner.



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