Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Do I need to hand over my Facebook and Twitter details when travelling to the US?

The majority of travellers applying for a visa to visit the US will now need to provide their social media handles

Travellers to the US may now need to provide social media information detailing user names and handles used in the last five years. 
Travellers to the US may now need to provide social media information detailing user names and handles used in the last five years. 

If your upcoming travel plans include a visit to the US then you better hope that you can remember your Myspace handle.

That’s because new US immigration laws require all visitors to the country, including short terms tourists, to disclose five years worth of social media handles to authorities.

The additional security step was first proposed in March and has now been added to visa application forms. This includes all B1 and B2 visas — which are issued for business or leisure travel for temporary visitors.

In the past, such digital details were only asked for from visa applicants that were flagged for extra security. US Customs and Border Protection have said that additional social media information will give it extra investigative tools.

Do I need to handover my social media details?

Travellers that are exempt for US visas under the US Waiver scheme will not need to provide this information.

This includes tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and various other European countries as well as other nations including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. Travellers from these countries with valid passports can continue to use the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) online system.

However, travellers from countries listed on the US Waiver scheme that plan to stay in the US for over 90 days, or flying there on private aircraft must apply for a non-immigrant visas, and provide the requested social media details. The same applies to dual citizens of certain countries.

Some diplomats and officials will be excluded from providing this information.

Are all social media sites included?

A screenshot from a tourist visa application to the US, applicants must now detail social media information. 
A screenshot from a tourist visa application to the US, applicants must now detail social media information. 

There are 19 social media sites listed on the US authority’s visa application.

As well as the big hitters like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, other sites include LinkedIn, Google+, Flickr, Tumblr, Reddit, Vine and Ask.fm.

Chinese social sites Douban, QZone, Weibo and Youku are also listed, as is Russia’s most popular social media platform VKontakte, or VK. Even the nostalgia-tinted MySpace doesn’t escape US scrutiny.

Applicants that have used any of these sites in the last five years will need to provide their social media identifier. This can be a username or handle, but cannot be left blank. If you have used more than one handle on a platform, you must list each one separately.

If you are an active user of a social media site not listed on the site's drop down menu, then you should volunteer this information on the form.

What if I don’t use social media?

If you do not have a single account registered on any of the listed sites then there is the option to select ‘None’. However, if you have used any account in the last five years, no matter how briefly, you need to fill in the details.

Do I need to handover my passwords?

No, applicants should not provide any passwords for any social media accounts in their visa application.

What if I use social media for work?

You don’t need to provide this information. The visa application is concerned with your personal online presence only. That means you don’t need to detail any social media accounts held by a business or organisation designed for use by multiple users, even if you actively post on it or manage it.

What else will I be asked?

Immigration at JFK Airport, New York. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons /  Beatrice Murch
Immigration at JFK Airport, New York. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons /  Beatrice Murch

The visa application forms also request telephone numbers and email addresses of applicants as well as employment information including monthly income and details of regular duties. There are also questions asking if family members are terrorists, whether the applicant has ever been involved in money laundering and whether travellers have a mental illness that could pose a danger to others.

Updated: June 2, 2019 04:04 PM

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