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Want a US Visa? Be Prepared to Hand Over Your Twitter Handle

Want a US Visa? Be Prepared to Hand Over Your Twitter Handle
Jeff Edwards

A repeatedly delayed proposal to require those entering the United States under the existing Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to list any and all social media handles has at least one tourism industry trade group concerned that the move will unnecessarily make foreign visitors from visa waiver countries less likely to visit the U.S., further decreasing an already sluggish travel segment.

Nearly all U.S. visa applicants are already required to list social media identifiers, such as Instagram handles and Facebook accounts, as part of the process. Now, officials have proposed making this same requirement mandatory for visitors entering the country through the current Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The questions about social media identifiers are voluntary right now, but after a three-month public comment period ending in December, officials say they will move forward with plans to make providing social media background information mandatory for VWP participants with very few exceptions.

Travel industry experts say that the move will further contribute to what is already a sharp downturn in foreign visitors to the U.S. The proposed change is considered especially troubling because travelers from countries participating in VWP tend to be among the most valuable in terms of tourism dollars spent and investment in businesses.

“We’ve always thought that security is important and it’s critical to travel, but we have questioned how helpful this particular policy is for security because bad guys aren’t likely to be honest in declaring their social media activity,” U.S Travel Association’s Tori Barnes told Skift. “We’re worried that this policy could discourage legitimate travelers from visiting the U.S at a time when we want to encourage people to come here as we’re seeing slowing growth in the international inbound market.”

In a study released this month, U.S. Travel found that inbound travel to the U.S. has fallen for the fourth straight month. The group largely blamed the trend on previous moves by U.S. officials, which have created the perception that foreign travelers are not as welcome as they once were. The association notes that the tourism industry has so far been shielded from the fallout of the steadily decreasing numbers of foreign visitors because of unexpectedly strong domestic travel, but the report cautions further erosions of the U.S.’s reputation as a welcoming destination could soon outpace the gains in the domestic segment.

“Despite consumer confidence and expectations hitting their respective highest points in July, consumer spending and business investments are still projected to cool and weigh upon the domestic travel market through the end of 2019,” the Travel Trends Index forecast cautions. “New, enduring or escalating trade conflicts pose additional downside risks and contribute to tepid growth prospects in 2019. International inbound travel demand has retreated in four of seven months in 2019, and the sector’s vulnerability is expected to continue. Ongoing global economic cooling, prolonged and expanding trade tensions, and uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration remain major risks to international traveler sentiment.”

 

[Featured Image: Flickr/ Jason Howie]

View Comments (11)

11 Comments

  1. davistev

    September 17, 2019 at 6:47 am

    Stupid policy. I do not have any social media accounts.

  2. MaxVO

    MaxVO

    September 17, 2019 at 8:53 am

    The mandatory part is total BS. Gov’t can’t force individuals (even foreign ones) to do business with Twitter and their ilk.

  3. Centurion

    September 17, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    <> What do you call flyertalk? It is a form of social media dedicated to frequent flyers

  4. jrpallante

    September 18, 2019 at 5:59 am

    Could this article be any more biased? There is no place on the planet where legitimate travelers are more welcome than the USA. Personally, I do not participate in any type of anti-social media. However, if you choose to do so, then your public posts should be fair game to officials evaluating your eligibility to enter the country. What would be the response of FT if this country were subjected to another terrorist attack, and it was subsequently found that the culprits had posted their intentions on anti-social media? FT has clearly demonstrated the inability to report honestly on fluff topics. You should separate yourselves entirely from serious topics.

  5. Dublin_rfk

    September 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Give the American left everything it wants. It will keep them from stealing it.
    PS: No twitter account no problem.

  6. kc1174

    September 18, 2019 at 7:57 am

    I may change my Instagram user name to “Go(insert expletive)YourselvesUSCIS”.

  7. btjcflyer

    September 18, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Makes perfect sense in a way, this should take care keeping out everyone who loves to berate the US , but have to use American created social media.

  8. tanja

    September 18, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    I have FB and only PRIVATE family/friends photos and comments. I would not EVER share it with any out siders. That is wrong and sick.

  9. GaxxyFlyer

    September 20, 2019 at 2:25 am

    jrpallanteSeptember 18, 2019 at 5:59 am
    Could this article be any more biased? There is no place on the planet where legitimate travelers are more welcome than the USA.

    That’s a joke right?

  10. KRSW

    September 20, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    What happens when someone says they don’t have any social media accounts? Other than here, I don’t participate in any other ‘social’ media.

  11. Cotumely

    September 21, 2019 at 12:19 am

    I don’t have any social media accounts, but do have accounts for sites such as Flyertalk and newspapers. Would I be asked for those?

    Will the immigration officials also be looking for any criticism of Trump?

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