WASHINGTON (XINHUA) - The United States is now requesting nearly all visa applicants to submit their social media information, as it steps up the security screening of prospective immigrants and travellers.
The additional information for the background scrutiny include social media usernames, e-mail addresses and phone numbers used in the previous five years.
Visa applicants also have to report international travel and deportation status during the same period, as well as whether their family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
"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 said.
"We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States."
The new visa policy, first proposed in March 2018, has just taken effect after approval of updated application forms. The only exemptions are certain diplomatic and official visa applicants.
The policy applies to virtually all applicants of immigrant and non-immigrant visas, including on the purpose of business or education. The US State Department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants each year.
Similar measures in the past targeted only about 65,000 applicants categorised into extra scrutiny each year, such as those with a history of travelling to terrorist-controlled areas.
The US State Department said the list of social media, which comprises 20 social media platforms of ASKfm, Douban, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, QZone, Reddit, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tumblr, Twitter, Twoo, Vine, Vkontakte, YouKu and YouTube, may grow in the future.