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US demand five years worth of social media handles from refugees applying for visas

Asylum seekers and immigrants applying for visas could be refused entry if they fail to adhere to set of new proposals to 'extremely vet' applicants
Department of Homeland Security officers already request social media account handles from individuals profiled on US borders (AFP)

The US State Department has submitted plans to demand asylum seekers and immigrants applying for visas hand over five years worth of social media handles. 

The proposals come as part of plans by US President Donald Trump to "extremely vet" and block potential "terrorists" from entering the country. 

The new rule which is still under review is expected to take effect on 18 May and apply to visa applicants who have "been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism".

The notice states that officials can ask applicants for Instagram, Facebook or Twitter handles, but not their passwords or otherwise access their social media accounts directly. 

The focus on social media by the US government come after the perpetrators of the San-Bernadino attack were "self-radicalised" through the internet.  

The Department of Homeland Security began collecting similar information in February, and have asked traveller for social media handles during the time President Obama was in office. 

Other proposals submitted by the US State Department include handing over 15 years worth of travel history, including the source of funding for travel, address history during the last 15 years, phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years. 

Asylum seekers and immigrants who refuse to comply with these new set of proposals could be automatically denied entry. 

Most of the information included in the latest proposals is already collected on visa applications but for a shorter time period e.g. five years rather than 15 years. 

Requests for names and date of births of siblings and for some applicants and children are new additions being proposed by the US State Department. 

The request for social media identifiers and associated platforms is new for the US Department of State.

The proposed changes would affect around 65,000 applicants per year who are deemed to warrant additional screening over security concerns. 

The specific criteria that would warrant the vetting of social media accounts are still not clear, but guidance released by the State Department prohibits individuals from "denying visas based on religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender or sexual orientation."

Other countries which have similar vetting procedures include Australia which collects the travel information of asylum seekers, and the travel's funding information, from 30 years to the entirety of the applicant's life. 

Last month, the United States issued about 40% fewer temporary visas in March to citizens of seven countries covered by Trump's temporary travel ban than it did in an average month last year, according to Reuters. 

Citizens of the seven Muslim-majority nations under the bans - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - received about 3,200 non-immigrant visas in March 2017, compared to about 5,700 on average per month during the 2016 fiscal year and more than 6,000 on average per month in 2015 and 2014.

The travel ban created by Donald Trump were later blocked by the courts.