Written by Ashley Koh

What happened?

It’s time to start deleting all the unglam selfies that you took when you were 13. The State Department announced a new proposal that requires nearly all US visa applicants to submit their social media usernames for the past 5 years. (btw follow me on Instagram @iamclearlyjoking96) This new proposal calls for the expansion of immigrant visas to include non-immigrant visas, which could affect approximately 14.7 million people annually. The State Department mentioned that the tighter screening would affect those who have been identified to warrant closer monitoring in connection with terrorism or other ‘national security-related visa ineligibilities.” The proposal covers major social media platforms worldwide, ranging from Facebook to Weibo. It also requires visa applicants to submit 5 years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses and their international travel history. These rules will not take effect immediately and are subject to public comments for 60 days before the Office of Management and Budget decides to approve them.

Land of the not-so-Free?

These proposals are in line with Trump’s campaign promises to carry out extreme vetting of foreigners entering the US. However, these rules are extremely intrusive to one’s privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the proposal and mentioned the detrimental effects it has on the freedom of speech and association, values that Americans hold sacred. People are worried that what they say online might be misunderstood by US government officials. The vague definition of ‘terrorist activities’ in the proposal can also be abused for political means to discriminate against innocent immigrants, especially those from Muslim-majority countries. Innocent Muslim immigrants and US citizens already have had the first-hand experience withTrump’s travel bans. But fret not, holding the world’s most powerful passport, Singaporeans enjoy visa-free travel to the US, and will not be affected by the proposed rules.

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