Show us your tweets: US unveils nosy new visa questionnaire

Show us your tweets: US unveils nosy new visa questionnaire
Some travelers seeking admission to the US are being handed a new form, requiring them to disclose biographical information going back 15 years and social media handles going back five. The temporary measure was fast-tracked by the Trump administration.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the new supplemental questionnaire on May 23, according to Reuters.

The form requests visa applicants to list information about their employment, place of residence, and foreign travel over the previous 15 years, as well as user names for any social media platforms “used to create or share content” for the previous five years.

The new form, designated DS-5535, appears to be a temporary measure. The OMB granted it emergency approval for six months, rather than the usual three years, and the forms carry the expiration date of November 30, 2017.

Consular officials will use the questionnaire when they determine “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” a State Department official told Reuters on Wednesday.

While President Donald Trump has pledged to tighten security on US borders, the social media questionnaire was an initiative launched under his predecessor, Barack Obama. The first reports of the plan to request social media handles appeared in June 2016.

Critics of the proposal have argued that the new questionnaire would be burdensome for the applicants, lead to delays in processing visas, and discourage international students and scientists from coming to the US.

"The United States has one of the most stringent visa application processes in the world," Babak Yousefzadeh, president of the Iranian American Bar Association, told Reuters. "The need for tightening the application process further is really unknown and unclear.”

The additional 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," the State Department said, according to Reuters.

Filling out the form is voluntary, though applicants may be rejected if they decline to provide information or deliberately lie.