Want to visit the US? Hand over your social media names

For the next 180 days, US visa applicants may be asked for their screen names.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read
Moment Editorial/Getty Images

It's official: President Trump wants your Twitter handle. And your Facebook username. And any other online identity you've possessed over the past five years. 

Not to keep, mind you. They'll be used to decide whether or not you can obtain a visa to visit or work in the US.

Reuters reports that the Trump administration is now asking US visa applicants worldwide to submit those social media handles, as well as biographical information for the past 15 years, as part of a new questionnaire (PDF) -- one that could deny you a visa if they don't like what they see, or perhaps even if you leave the section blank.

According to the form, the answers are "voluntary," and yet "Individuals who fail to submit this form or who do not provide all the requested information may be denied a U.S. visa." We've contacted the State Department to ask more specifically about the risks of not providing info.

It's not necessarily everyone who'll need to submit the info, however. According to the Office of Management and Budget, which approved the questionnaire for the next 180 days, it will only be handed out to people who "present a threat profile" and require "enhanced screening." They expect it'll affect 65,000 people a year or roughly 0.5 percent of visa applicants. 

"If a consular officer determines that additional information, including social media handles, is necessary in order to adjudicate a visa application, failure to provide that requested information may result in denial of the visa unless the applicant can provide a credible explanation or supporting documentation‎," a spokesperson tells CNET.

However, "Visa applicants who have never used social media will not be refused on the basis of failing to provide a social media handle."

It'll be odd if the country which wrote the First Amendment decides to deny people entry based on what they've said. Five years of social media history can get anyone in trouble.

Read more at our sister site ZDNet.

First published June 2, 1 p.m. PT.

Update, 5:50p.m. PT: Adds State Department spokesperson information about screen names.