Strong national security is vital to travel. But the effectiveness of this proposed measure is questionable—and it could harm efforts to regrow America’s share of inbound international travel.
Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to broaden a policy of scrutinizing U.S. visa applicants' social media histories, which would have affected nearly 15 million travelers last year.
The new rules would not take effect immediately—there is currently a 60-day comment period, ending on May 29, 2018, in which stakeholders can voice their opinion. Given the likely negative implications for efforts to regrow America's share of inbound international travel, U.S. Travel is preparing a forceful and thorough submission to the public comment process, and will seek every opportunity to engage the Trump administration on this policy.
Among the proposed new data requirements, U.S. visa applicants would need to submit details about their social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, including usernames/handles, and to state whether any of their relatives had been involved in “terrorist activity.”
The utility of these measures would rely on the candor of bad actors, which seems unrealistic.
What’s far more likely is that this will weigh on America’s efforts to recapture its share of the growing global travel market. International travel is a highly competitive market, and one that can easily be influenced by new and evolving security protocols. Therefore, the U.S. must ensure that modifications to its visa process do not add unnecessary burdens for applicants, and deliver on their intended security benefit. U.S. Travel has serious reservations about the broad application of the measures proposed by the State Department.
This proposal would not affect travelers arriving to the U.S. under the security-strengthening Visa Waiver Program (VWP). However, these new social media vetting standards would affect visitors from countries that are rapidly expanding as lucrative international travel markets, such as China and India, and could dampen America’s ability to capitalize on that growth. As Politico reported this week, the number of foreign visitor visas issued by the U.S. has declined over the past year, making it more crucial than ever to implement policies that will attract more international visitors to America.