While holidays are often an excuse to reignite your social media presence, travellers to the US will be required to retrieve their account details much earlier than expected under tough new visa vetting procedures implemented this month.
The new policy will require prospective US visitors to disclose all social media accounts that they’ve held over the last five years.
Applicants have been warned that failing to disclose their social media activity will have serious consequences.
What needs to be disclosed?
The new visa application form requires applicants to disclose the social media platforms they’ve used over the last five years.
The form contains a drop-down menu of a number of common social media platforms, including:
Visa applicants are then required to provide the details of their usernames or handles for each of the platforms that they have used.
Applicants are also given the opportunity to disclose additional information about social media platforms that may not have been included in the drop-down selection.
Are Australians exempt?
Most Australian travellers will avoid the new enhanced vetting procedures if they are eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program.
Under the Visa Waiver Program, Australians travelling to the US for 90 days or less do not have to obtain a visa under certain conditions.
These conditions include things like:
- You’re visiting the US for business or leisure; and
- You do not have a criminal record; and
- You’re arriving on an approved commercial carrier and have a return trip ticket to a foreign destination (if you’re arriving by air or sea).
Invasion of privacy
The State Department has outlined that the new policy was designed to improve national security screenings.
However, it has faced severe criticism from privacy advocates.
The American Civil Liberties Union has labelled the vetting policy “ineffective and deeply problematic”.
Dr Belinda Barnet, a Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications at Swinburne University, labelled the procedure “draconian”.
Where to now?
While the Visa Waiver Program will safeguard most Australian travellers from disclosure for the moment, it is unknown whether tough new vetting procedures will be extended in the future.
The decision will have a significant impact on Australians considering the US is the third most visited international destination for Australians (behind New Zealand and Indonesia).