Trump administration approves tougher visa vetting, including social media checks

Trump administration approves tougher visa vetting, including social media checks

On top of their social media history, applicants are also asked to supply 15 years of biographical information - including residential, travel, and employment history - and five years worth of email addresses and phone numbers.

"The United States has one of the most stringent visa application processes in the world", San Francisco-based attorney Babak Yousefzadeh told Reuters.

A new visa application implemented by the State Department works to implement President Trump's goal of "extreme vetting".

However, the Office of Management and Budget has granted emergency approval for the modified questionnaire only for a period of six months. The Trump administration approved a new visa vetting procedure that would allow officials to request applicants' social media handles.

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The strict new questionnaire doesn't exactly come as a surprise.

Now it appears that the Trump Administration wants a further head start on perusing the digital lives of those entering the U.S. While the new questionnaire isn't as obviously invasive as a customs agent rifling through your vacation photos and text messages, it does give authorities an opportunity to dig deeper than they have before.

Critics argue that the new questions will be burdensome and will lead to long delays in processing and discourage worldwide students and scientists from coming to the United States.

Quoting an unnamed State Department official, Reuters reported that the additional information would only be requested when the department determines that "such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting". They expect it'll affect 65,000 people a year, or roughly 0.5% of visa applicants.

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The approach is deeply unpopular with civil liberties advocates, however, who warn that the new measures are deeply intrusive, and will lead other countries to demand Americans share their social media profiles at foreign borders.

The questionnaire even asks applicants to recount the source of the funds they used to pay for every trip they took outside their native country over the course of the last 15 years.

Passengers make their way in a security checkpoint at the International JFK Airport in New York, US.

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