Following through on President Trump’s campaign promise to put immigrants to the U.S. through “extreme vetting," the State Department announced new proposals Thursday to increase the screening of certain applicants, including requesting social media handles.
In response to Trump’s March 6 memorandum which demanded more screening for visa applicants, the State Department published a notice in the Federal Register seeking feedback on proposals that would demand more information of flagged applicants when a consular official believes it warranted.
Under the proposals, such applicants would have to provide information including social media handles, phone numbers and emails for the last five years, prior passport numbers and additional information about their family, past travel and employment.
Consular officials would not be allowed to seek passwords or breach privacy controls on social media accounts.
“Collecting additional information from visa applicants whose circumstances suggest a need for further scrutiny will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity,” a State Department official told Fox News. “We estimate these changes would affect only a fraction of one percent of the more than 13 million annual visa applicants worldwide.”
Much of the information that would be required is already requested of all applicants, but for a lesser time frame. So, for instance, employment history is already requested for five years, but under the proposal could be increased to 15 years for flagged applicants. Other requirements, such as social media handles and requests for names and dates of birth of siblings and children, are new.
The notice says that failure to provide the information won’t necessarily result in a denial of a visa if the official believes the applicant has a credible explanation. It also notes that “the collection of social media platforms and identifiers will not be used to deny visas based on applicants' race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.”
The notice says that the information is being requested “in order to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
Fox News’ Rich Edson contributed to this report.