US approves social media background checks for visa applicants

News Hour:

The U.S. is buttressing its paperwork walls with new requirements for social media disclosures as part of revised visa applications.

 Earlier today, the decision from the U.S. government’s Office of Management and Budget was made over strenuous objections from education and academic groups during a public comment period.

The new questionnaire will ask for social media handles dating back over the last five years and biographical information dating back 15 years.

For critics, the new questionnaire represents yet another obstacle that the government is putting in the path of potential immigrants, would-be students and qualified researchers and teachers that may otherwise want to come 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.”

In an earlier Reuters report, the news service quoted an immigration attorney railing against the new procedures:

“What this language effectively does is give the consular posts permission to step away from the focused factors they have spent years developing and revising, and instead broaden the search to large groups based on gross factors such as nationality and religion,” Gairson said.

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