The Trump Administration Approves Tougher Visa Vetting Processes, Including Social Media Checks

Posted June 02, 2017

The Office of Management and Budget granted a six-month emergency approval for the questions - the measures are usually in place for three years.

The new questionnaire, which is a step towards stricter vetting for visitors to the USA, was approved by the Office of Management and Budget on May 23 despite criticism from education officials and academics.

The extended vetting procedures also allow consular officials to request biographical information such as past addresses, travel history and employment spanning the last 15 years.

During the public comment period following the proposed questionnaire expansion, critics attacked the effort for likely increasing the already-slow process and potentially discouraging global students and scientists from attempting to enter the country.

The US State department estimates that this would affect 65,000 applicants a year, or 0.5 percent of all applicants, and would require 65,000 more hours of work per year.

Among the new fields is a section dedicated exclusively to social media, in which applicants are asked to provide their "unique user name" for any online service used to "create or share content" over the past five years.

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It does not apply to the six life sentences Malvo received for pleading guilty to six murders in Maryland. For now, he'll remain in prison, his attorney told CNN. "I was able to move on with my life", she said.

The new questionnaire had been up for public comment through May 18.

A screenshot of the new social media questions section in the U.S. visa application form.

State Department officials reportedly told Reuters the more rigorous vetting will only be used for applicants "who have been determined to warrant additional security on connection with terrorism or other national-security related visa ineligibilities".

The application isn't so intrusive that it asks for access to those social media accounts - requests like that are more likely to come from border officials on the spot, after all - but the barrier for entry into the country is now raised.

"We already request contact information, travel history, family member information and previous addresses from all visa applicants", he said, adding that collecting additional information from visa applicants whose circumstances suggest a need for further scrutiny strengthens the process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.

It's just another step to make it easier for the administration to block anyone they want from entering the USA - whether they're a true threat to national security or not.