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Visa Applicants to Provide Social Media Details to take Admission in US Universities

Previously, detailed information on personal activity was only sought from applicants who were deemed a possible security risk

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FILE - A woman checks her documents as she walks past the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, May 6, 2011. VOA

Nearly everyone applying for a visa to enter the United States will have to provide their social media accounts as well as other detailed personal information as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” process for all immigrants and visitors.

The U.S. State Department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to require applicants to provide five years’ worth of social media user names, telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status. They will also be asked whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

The new rules, first proposed in 2018, are expected to affect nearly 15 million people, including those applying to immigrate to the U.S., as well as those hoping to study, do business, work or just visit. Only applicants for diplomatic and official visas could be exempt from the new rules.

Previously, detailed information on personal activity was only sought from applicants who were deemed a possible security risk. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year fell into that category.

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveler and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the State Department said in a release.

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FILE – A man has his fingerprints taken electronically while taking part in a visa application demonstration at the consular section of the Embassy of the United States in Lima, Peru, October 3, 2014. VOA

Besides the social media platforms based in the U.S. like Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube, applicants will also be asked about activity of international platforms, such as China’s Douban, QQ and Sina Weibo.

Applicants do have the option of saying they have no social media accounts. But, the State Department has warned that lying about social media use would have “serious immigration consequences” for applicants, The Hill reported.

Companies in China that help students navigate the process of getting into U.S. colleges and universities are telling their clients to avoid posting sensitive terms such as “maternity hotel,” “give birth to babies in the U.S.,” “guns,” “green card,” immigrant,” “buy property in the U.S.” on their social media platforms, The South China Morning Post reported.

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The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced opposition to the new requirements since they were first proposed last year.

“There is also no evidence that such social media monitoring is effective or fair, especially in the absence of criteria to guide the use of social media information in the visa adjudication process,” the ACLU said at the time. (VOA)

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China Alerts Students About Studying in United States

"These kinds of behaviors have already hurt the dignity of Chinese students studying in the United States and have seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people"

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FILE - Students clap while Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during a visit to Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, Sept. 23, 2015. VOA

The Chinese Ministry of Education has warned Chinese students about studying in the United States, referencing an increase in delays and further complications regarding visa processing.

The warning comes during a protracted trade war and heightened tensions between China and the U.S., as well as concerns from some in Washington about espionage and intellectual property theft.

“The visa applications of some Chinese hoping to study in the United States have recently been restricted, with an extended reviewing process, shortened validity periods and increased rejection rate, which has affected their plans to study in the United States, or the completion of their study there,” said Chinese Ministry of Education spokesperson Xu Mei.

The Ministry of Education also told students seeking to study at U.S. universities to “strengthen risk assessment.” mXu Yongji, another Ministry of Education official, told state broadcaster CCTV that 13.5% of all Chinese student visa applicants were “unable to make the trip as planned,” citing complications with visas.

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The Ministry of Education also told students seeking to study at U.S. universities to “strengthen risk assessment.” Pixabay

“These kinds of behaviors have already hurt the dignity of Chinese students studying in the United States and have seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people,” Xu told reporters on Monday.

Some lawmakers and policymakers in Washington have sought to restrict the number of Chinese international students attending American universities.In June of last year, the State Department shortened the length of visas from five years to one year for Chinese graduate students in the fields of robotics, aviation and advanced manufacturing. According to officials, the goal is to protect intellectual property and defend against espionage.

Ties to Chinese military

Congressional Republicans have also sponsored a bill that would prohibit individuals who are employed or sponsored by organizations with connections to the Chinese military from receiving student or research visas.

China is the largest source of international students in U.S. colleges, with 33.2% of all international students coming from China, according to the Institute for International Education.In the 2017-2018 year, this translated to 363,341 students, a 3.6% increase from the previous academic year.

Many educators have expressed concern over the Trump administration’s stance toward international applicants for student visas. In a report by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international education is a $3.9 billion industry. At NAFSA’s annual conference last week, many claimed their enrollments had been in decline, according to reporting by VOA News.

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“These kinds of behaviors have already hurt the dignity of Chinese students studying in the United States and have seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people,” Xu told reporters on Monday. Pixabay

In August 2018, Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs, sent an open letter to then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen advocating for a change in immigration policy in regard to students from abroad.

ALSO READ: US Salutes ‘Heroes’ of Tiananmen Square Massacre

“Inconsistent government action and uncertainty undermines economic growth and American competitiveness and creates anxiety for employees who follow the law. In many cases, these employees studied here and received degrees from U.S. universities, often in critical STEM fields,” the letter read.

In April, FBI Director Christopher Wray alleged that China was using “graduate students and researchers” to conduct espionage. “We need to focus even more on a whole-of-society approach because in many ways, we confront whole-of-society threats,” Wray said. U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a G20 summit in Japan later this month. (VOA)