US visa applicants will be required to submit details of their social media accounts under stringent new immigration rules, the US State Department has confirmed.
Proposed last year, the new legislation would require applicants to submit any relevant social media handles, as well as five years’ worth of email addresses and phone numbers.
Previously, applicants were asked to volunteer details of certain social media accounts, but declaration will now become a requirement for certain social media sites. These include Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The rule typically applied to applicants deemed to require additional vetting, primarily those travelling to and/or from areas where terror groups have a known or controlling presence.
For any sites not listed, the US government will continue to ask applicants to volunteer details. The new rules are not understood to extend to Esta applications, which will continue to ask travellers to volunteer certain details about social media use.
In a statement, the US State Department said: “National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening.
“We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
The move is expected to affect nearly 15 million people annually and has been criticised by US civil liberty groups.