The US State Department has begun implementing its requirement that nearly all US visa applicants submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers as part of the application process.
The new requirement, which could affect up to 15 million would-be travellers to the US, is part of enhanced screening under President Donald Trump’s administration.
The department’s regulations say people will have to submit social media user names and five years’ worth of email addresses and phone numbers.
Some diplomatic and official visa applicants will be exempt from the stringent new measures. However, people travelling to the US to work or study will have to hand over the required information.
Volunteer details “National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the US undergoes extensive security screening,” the department said in a statement to AP.
“We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States,” it further stated.
Previously, only applicants who needed additional vetting — such as people who had been to parts of the world controlled by terrorist groups — would need to hand over this data.
But now applicants will have to give up their account names on a list of social media platforms, and also volunteer the details of their accounts on any sites not listed.
The Trump administration first proposed the rules in March 2018.
Trump made cracking down on immigration a key plank of his election campaign in 2016. He called for “extreme vetting” of immigrants before and during his time in office.