Washington: Under new rules by the State Department, nearly all US visa applicants have to submit their social media details including five years’ worth of email addresses and phone numbers.

Earlier only applicants who needed additional vetting – such as people who had been to parts of the world controlled by terrorist groups – would need to hand over this data. But now almost all applicants have been asked to give up their account names on a list of social media platforms, and also volunteer the details of their accounts on any sites not listed. Anyone who lies about their social media use could face “serious immigration consequences”, according to an official.

The rules, which were proposed by Trump administration in March 2018 is estimated to affect 14.7 million people annually. “National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the department said.

It added,”We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

Certain diplomatic and official visa applicants will be exempt from the stringent new measures.  However, people travelling to the US to work or to study will have to hand over their information, the BBC reported.

Notably, US President Donald Trump made cracking down on immigration a key plank of his election campaign in 2016. He called for “extreme vetting” of immigrants before and during his time in office.

(With inputs from agencies)