U.S. Visa Applications Require Disclosure of Social Media Accounts

By Samantha Poteet

June 1, 2019 -- First announced last year in March and taking effect this month, the U.S. Department of State will require almost all U.S. visa applicants to disclose the social media account usernames, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers they currently use and have used within the past five years.

In a statement to the Associated Press, the Department of State emphasized that “national security is [their] top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening.” The Department of State added that they are “constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

Requiring the disclosure of social media accounts is not a new practice in the screening process for U.S. visa applicants. It was previously restricted to U.S. visa applicants who had traveled or planned to travel to areas with heightened terrorist activity were required to divulge their social media accounts, and this only affected about 65,000 applicants per year.

With the changes in place, up to 15 million individuals expecting to travel to the United States can be affected. The Office of the Federal Register (www.federalregister.gov) estimates that this will affect 14 million travelers and 710,000 immigrants to the U.S. each year.

The National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] and the U.S. Government Publishing Office [GPO] jointly administer the Federal Register’s official website as a means for citizens and communities to be better informed about federal regulations and have increased opportunities for inclusion in governmental decision-making processes.

This particular regulation is the latest step the Trump administration has taken in the expansion of current screening protocols of potential immigrants and visitors for national security, including those who use visas to work or study.

As Gallaudet University and Rochester Institute of Technology both have a large number of potential students who apply for U.S. visas in order to attend classes, we can anticipate that their applications will be affected. Not only will those potential students be asked to share all the social media platforms and account names they may have used over the last five years, they will also be subject to questions about their family members and whether any of them have been involved in terrorist activity.

Deaf Visa is an organization that offers support for U.S. visa applicants who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and their mission is to “maximize the empowerment of Deaf internationals living or staying in America by affirming their strengths, connecting communities, promoting communication, and advancing self-advocacy.” For further information on Deaf Visa’s advocacy services, go to their website (click here).