WASHINGTON • The United States is now requesting nearly all visa applicants to submit their social media information, in stepping up the security screening of prospective immigrants and travellers.
The additional information for the background scrutiny includes social media usernames, e-mail addresses and phone numbers used in the last 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 US 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 US."
The new visa policy, first proposed in March last year, 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 for immigrant and non-immigrant visas, including for the purpose of business or education.
The State Department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants each year.