The Trump administration last week announced plans to heighten its scrutiny of U.S. visa applicants’ social media histories, a move which would affect nearly 15 million people a year.
The proposed new rules from the State Department would require visa applicants to disclose details about their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts, as well as provide telephone numbers, email addresses and travel history for the past five years. They would also have to state whether they have ever been deported from a country and if they have any relatives who have been involved in terrorist activity.
According to a Federal Register notice, the State Department is accepting public comments on the proposed rules until May 29, 2018.
Because of the likely negative impact the new rules would have on international travel to the U.S., ASAE is working with the Visit U.S. Coalition to comment before the rules are finalized. The Visit U.S. Coalition was formed earlier this year to advance policy recommendations aimed at reversing the decline in inbound travel to the U.S. Research prepared by the U.S. Travel Association shows that while global travel has increased 7.9 percent from 2015 to 2017, the U.S. market share has fallen from 13.6 percent to 11.9 percent over the same period. That decline in international travel has resulted in a loss of $32.2 billion in visitor spending and 100,000 hospitality jobs.
Along with U.S. Travel and ASAE, other founding members of the Visit U.S. Coalition include the American Gaming Association; American Hotel & Lodging Association; Asian American Hotel Owners Association; International Association of Exhibitions and Events; National Restaurant Association; National Retail Federation; Society of Independent Show Organizers; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The proposed rules would not affect citizens from countries to which the U.S. grants visa-free travel status, which includes most of Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan. However, citizens from countries like India and China could be subject to “extreme vetting” if they are planning to travel to the U.S.
Vetting of visa applicants’ social media history was first discussed by the Trump administration last May, though at that time the State Department was considering requiring visa applicants to provide 15 years of biographical information and social media usage.
ASAE has continued to stress that national security is vitally important, but that a balance must be struck between the need for appropriate screening procedures and the need to facilitate legitimate travel to the U.S.