Are you ready to share your internet history? Unfortunately, you'll have to if you are planning to apply for the US visa!
Under new rules by the State Department, all visa applicants, including tourists, headed to the United States will have to furnish their social media information. People will have to submit social media names and five years' worth of email addresses and phone numbers, as per new regulations.
Around 8.72 lakh visas were issued by the US consulate offices in India during the fiscal ended September 30, 2018. The revised US visa forms, when proposed in March 2018, authorities estimated the proposal would affect 14.7 million people annually. However, some diplomats and officials are likely to be exempted from the stringent new measures.
According to media reports, people heading to the US to work or to study will also have to share their information. "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 department said as quoted by news agency IANS.
Earlier, only applicants who needed additional vetting - such as people who visited parts of the world controlled by terrorist groups - would need to submit this data. However, now applicants will have to submit their account names on a list of social media platforms - Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Applicants might face "serious immigration consequences" if they lie about their social media information, according to an official.
The Donald Trump administration first proposed the rules last year in March 2018. A key plank of Trump's election campaign in 2016 was to crack down on immigration. The US president had called for "extreme vetting" of immigrants before and during his time in office.
Meanwhile, Trump has declared to end preferential trade treatment for India from June 5 onwards. However, the Narendra Modi government said it will continue to seek to build strong economic ties with the United States despite a decision by the US President.
India is the biggest beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, which allows preferential duty-free imports of up to $5.6 billion from the South Asian nation. If Trump drops India from the programme, the officials from Indian have raised the prospect of higher import duties on more than 20 US goods.