As was being anticipated, Trump administration is topping its paperwork walls with new requirements for social media disclosures as part of revised visa applications. Social media background check comes at a time when the world is setting tighter controls to curb ‘freedom of expression’.
The form rolled out new questionnaire for visa applicants worldwide that asks for social media handles for last five years. The form also makes it even more difficult for the applicants to apply as it includes details about biographical information dating back 15 years.
Biographical information has been categorized in the groups:
social media accounts details
phone numbers kept from the past five years
travel history going back 15 years
It is imperative to note that the new visa requirements have come at a time when the students world over, especially in Pakistan, are gearing up to commence their university studies in the upcoming fall season.
State Department’s New Form
The guidelines for the form include a disclaimer asking the applicant to provide information as per their honest knowledge. It is assumed by the authorities that the maximum time required to fill the form is no more than one hour. Yes, filling up biographical details up to 15 years and putting all relevant social media information within a form shouldn’t require more than 60 minutes.
The paperwork reduction act statement accompanied by the form states
“Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 60 minutes per response, including time required for searching existing data sources, gathering the necessary documentation, providing the information and/or documents required, and reviewing the final collection. You do not have to supply this information unless this collection displays a currently valid OMB control number. If you have comments on the accuracy of this burden estimate and/or recommendations for reducing it, please send them to: PRA_BurdenComments@state.gov.”
Critical Response to the Questionnaire
The questionnaire – part of an effort to tighten vetting of would-be visitors to the US, was approved on May 23. The questionnaire has been approved despite criticism from a range of education officials and academic groups during a public comment period.
Critics have argued that the new questions would be overly burdensome and problematic. A direct problem will be faced by international students and scientists from coming to the United States. Pakistani students and entrepreneurs applying for US visa will now be feeling extra pressure for their application process which were already processed slower than the rest of the world.
The State Department said earlier the tighter vetting would apply to visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
Leading immigration attorney Gairson talking to Reuters said,
“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.”