US extreme vetting includes Aussies

The United States is now asking US visa applicants to disclose their social media account information or risk having entry requests knocked back.

The new law came into effect as of 7 June, and applies to all applicants, including Australians and around 15 million international travellers each year.

However, Australians entering the country for periods of 90 days or fewer will not have to divulge their social media account information, as they are covered under the Visa Waiver Program.

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the US State Department told ABC News.

“We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

On the new application form, travellers will have to disclose their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit account details, including any account details they may have had in the past five years.

Applicants caught lying about their social media information could face “serious immigration consequences”, says The Hill.

The new laws have their share of critics, with some saying they could lead to censorship and freedom of speech infringements.

“This attempt to collect a massive amount of information on the social media activity of millions of visa applicants is yet another ineffective and deeply problematic Trump administration plan,” said American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project director Hina Shamsi.

“There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travellers from Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security.”

What do you think of such laws? Do you think Australian visa applicants should have to declare all social media account information? Or is this going too far?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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