U.S. Law Center

Social media and the Visa Waiver Program

Visiting the United States from another country is often a temporary event, conducted for business purposes or for enjoying tourist activities. For many foreign nationals, part of the process of making the trip includes applying for an employment or tourist visa. However, according to National Public Radio, there are 38 countries designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security whose citizens may qualify for the Visa Waiver Program.

Currently, the program requires officials to examine information provided by eligible travelers before allowing them to enter the country. Now, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has proposed an additional request to be included in the online form: social media usernames. Until mid-August, the public may view and provide their thoughts on this potential addition.

Some people believe that it would be beneficial to allow officials to scrutinize applicants’ publicly posted accounts for evidence of threats to national security. However, others argue that the government should not seek this level of oversight into personal lives, even though providing the information would not be mandatory. How effective a voluntary request may be could also create an issue that renders the addition unnecessary, according to critics.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Visa Waiver Program limits a foreign national to a stay in the United States of up to 90 days. It is available to holders of e-passports from the approved countries who are conducting approved professional or recreational visits. The CBP tool for completing this process is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

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