The Department of Homeland Security launched the EVUS program back in November 2016. The Electronic Visa Update System is a travel requirement for Chinese citizens who hold a valid 10-year B1 or B2 U.S. visa. However, Homeland Security proposed adding an optional question for Chinese visa recipients earlier this year. This extra question requests Chinese nationals for their social media accounts before entering the United States.
The new questions regarding social media impacts those Chinese citizens who hold a 10-year business or visitor visa and wish to travel to the United States. The social media questions have been added to the EVUS form. The EVUS application collects a traveller’s passport and visa details and includes a questionnaire at the end in which applicants must answer security and health related questions.
Enrollment in EVUS is currently obligatory for citizens with a People’s Republic of China Passport. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents will be able to use social media information to vet a traveller. However, EVUS applicants that do not wish to answer these questions can submit their application without any negative consequences.
The Trump Administration is simply following initiatives established by President Obama. Since December 2016 foreign travellers entering the Unites States have been asked to volunteer their social media details. This measure applies to citizens of the 38 countries that belong in the visa waiver program and are expected to apply for the ESTA.
Some privacy advocates have expressed concern towards the collection of social media data from foreign travellers. The American Civil Liberties have argued that expanding the current questionnaire would increase invasiveness and that is shouldn’t be necessary.
However, others have argued that access to social media accounts could contribute to enhancing national security, public safety and it could help identify possible terrorists. Though the questions about social media in the EVUS application are voluntary, citizens who apply for a visa first will face tougher interviews.
Under new procedures, consular officials will be able to request an applicant’s passport numbers, five years worth social media handles, email addresses, phone numbers, and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Congress back in February that turning in social media passwords would be part of heightened security measures. Kelly said that this is being considered especially for refugees and visa applicants from seven Muslim countries.