Failure to provide social media history may jeopardize U.S. visa applicants

Q COSTA RICA – The so-called “extreme vetting” urged by U.S. President Donald Trump could likely affect some Costa Ricans applying for a visa to the United States, who may be questioned about their social media accounts, along with about 15 years of information on work and travel history.

According to the the State Department document published in the Federal Register, the stepped-up measures, that will kick into effect beginning on May 18, but subject to public comment by the Office of Management of Budget, would require applicants the following information, if not already included in an application, in order to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
  • Address history during the last fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Name and dates of birth for all children;
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
  •  Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

The State Department points out that Most of this information is already collected on visa applications but for a shorter time period, e.g. five years rather than fifteen years. Requests for names and dates of birth of siblings and, for some applicants, children are new, as is for social media identifiers and associated platforms.

Regarding travel history, applicants may be requested to provide details of their international or domestic (within their country of nationality) travel, if it appears to the consular officer that the applicant has been in an area while the area was under the operational control of a terrorist organization. Applicants may be asked to recount or explain the details of their travel, and when possible, provide supporting documentation.

U.S. immigration officials had previously screened the social media accounts of selected visitors at border checkpoints, but visa applicants had been exempt from such examinations. However, passwords for email and social media accounts will not be required, and consular officers will not attempt to subvert any privacy controls the applicants may have implemented on social media platforms, not to engage or interact with individuals on or through social media, not to violate or attempt to violate individual privacy settings; and not to use social media or assess an individual’s social media presence beyond established Department guidance, according to the State Department document.

The additional questions may be sent electronically to the applicant or be presented orally or in writing at the time of the interview.

Failure to provide the details would likely endanger applicants’ ability to enter the United States.

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