Social media, email and phone number histories had only been sought in the past from applicants who were identified for extra scrutiny, such as people who'd traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year had fallen into that category.
The department says collecting the additional information from more applicants "will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity."
The new rules apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. The department estimated it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education, according to an initial notice.
The new visa application forms list a number of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. They also give applicants the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed on the form.
In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements.