The United States Department of State updated its online visa applications. The applications now require social media identifiers for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants.

As announced on June 1st, 2019, applicants for U.S. visas are being asked to identify and list any social media they have used in the last five years and the “identifier” or “handle” associated with the account.

A social media “identifier”, otherwise known as “handle”, is any name used by an individual on social media platforms. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and more. An identifier is the username attached to the account.

The updated visa online application forms use a drop-down menu with 20 possible social media accounts. The applicants are asked to provide their identifier to any of the social media accounts listed. If the applicant has no social media accounts or the social media site is not listed on the menu, they may select “none”.

Why does the U.S. want this information?

After providing their social media identifier, the applicant can expect the U.S. Department of State to verify the applicant’s identity and possibly check for anything that may affect their visa application. Immigration authorities also use social media to conduct low-level background checks on applicants. Immigration officers may also use the accounts to check for honesty in the information provided to them.

Note that the application does not ask for the password to the social media account and will not have the ability to modify privacy controls. This means that if your Instagram account (or other social media) is set to “private” they will not be able to view your posts.

The U.S. Department of State is also asking applicants to provide telephone numbers, email addresses, deportation status, international travel information and whether anyone in their family has been involved in terroristic activity in the past five years. The U.S. ensures applicants that national security is a top priority. They will only use social media to improve the screening process and protect U.S. citizens.