News report | | 25-04-2018 | ±4 minutes reading time

The Trump government is planning to thoroughly screen visitors when they decide to travel to the United States. For awhile now, British travellers are required to apply for an ESTA USA. This is a digital travel authorisation, in which the authorities state that the traveller is granted permission to enter the USA.

If you want to travel to the USA, you would do well to watch what you’re saying on social media, especially if they are from a non-Western country. The U.S. Home Office is planning to ask travellers that want to apply for a visa for their usernames on social media. They must also pass on all phone numbers and e-mail addresses they’ve used in the past five years. British travellers are thus far exempt from the strict rules the Trump government is planning to push through.

Social media with visa and ESTASocial media

ESTA application

To travel to the United States, British travellers are required to apply for an ESTA USA. This isn’t an official visa,but a digital travel authorisation, with which the traveller can travel to the USA. This authorisation needs to have been issued before you even board your plane. At the airport, you are checked for a valid authorisation.

Airlines are forbidden from transporting travellers to the USA that don’t possess an ESTA USA. All travellers therefore must apply for this digital travel authorisation before leaving for their trip. Furthermore, children also need to posses this authorisation. They cannot be included in the ESTA of their parents.

Non-western travellers planning to apply for a physical visa might soon be asked to provide more information about themselves. It seems that this won’t have any effect on ESTA USA applications. The Trump government is planning to thoroughly screen foreign visitors. Travellers from seven Muslim countries, Venezuela and North Korea are already barred from entering the country. Starting last year, some travellers have been asked for their social media accounts.

The government is planning to heavily increase the rate at which they ask people for their social media activities. Roughly 14 million travellers from non-western countries will likely be subjected to questions about their usernames, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. These travellers are advised to refrain from political opinions on social media.

British tourists

This all concerns measures taken against non-western countries. The United Kingdom and other western countries won’t have to deal with these rules. Applying for an ESTA for British travellers therefore hasn’t changed. Travellers won’t need be as careful about what they say on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Looking at the future, however, it might be wise to still refrain from these kinds of opinions online.

The new questions will furthermore only apply to the D-160 form. This is a form which is required to apply for a physical visa. For many wealthy countries, this requirement doesn’t apply. British travellers only need to apply for an ESTA USA through the ESTA form. This is an electronic form on which travellers can fill in several fields of information.

The ESTA is not mentioned in any of the statements of the US government, and will therefore not be expected to change anytime soon.

No definitive decision

The decision to ask for social media information is not definitive yet. Americans get to comment on it in the next sixty days. The government will then make a final decision on it. Congress has no input on the matter.

The purpose of the questions is to “only allow those people in who share and respect our values and our people”, Trump told his followers in 2016. The proposition also states that these questions are necessary for a full ‘background check’. The new rules do not apply for diplomats.

Social media

Which social media are screened exactly, the government hasn’t specified yet. At the very least, it seems to concern networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Furthermore, it’s not clear exactly what the U.S. government wants to check. Revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. security forces primarily deal with network analysis. The usernames, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of travellers can help to properly screen the network of a traveller.