It is no longer news that the US government has drastically altered its Visa application process. As reported over the weekend, the global superpower will now require the social media user names of most persons applying for a US visa. The new US visa social media policy is going to affect millions of people and only those with diplomatic passes will be unaffected.
Yet what’s more interesting is that the US is already implementing this policy. In other words, when you apply for a US visa today, you simply have no choice than to provide the usernames for all your social media accounts, emails and phone numbers for the last five years.
Of course the issue may not be such a big one in Nigeria yet. But it is still an issue since many Nigerian social media users, particularly on Twitter, reside abroad (or in the US) either permanently or temporarily. Many more are plotting their exit and the US remains a choice destination.
Other choice destinations include Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Together with the US, all five countries are members of the Five Eyes alliance, allowing them to share intelligence and information with each other. So, with the implementation of this new US visa social media policy, these US allies would likely follow suite.
Since the policy is already being implemented, it got us wondering, what types of social media users will be most affected?
We identified four categories of Nigerian social media users who could be most affected by the visa changes.
Users who Operate Pseudo Accounts
Owners of pseudo accounts are the most vulnerable to the new visa changes. Pseudo accounts are a sort of alter ego created by some people to hide, do and say stuff they ordinarily wouldn’t do. From bashing religion, having raunchy conversations, to sharing unpopular opinions, these users are probably panicking now about the new US visa social media policy.
They won’t want anybody to link these accounts back to them and that realization is the main reason they feel so free online. Too bad for them.
Political dissidents or government critics are nearly always the victims of social media crackdowns. And although this is no crackdown, there’s no guarantee that the US won’t use information from people’s social media accounts.
Terrorists and Fanatics
Social media is the easiest way to spot terrorists and fanatics. Like pseudo account users, many fanatics tend to appear unassuming in the everyday world. They could be quiet and appear simple, but deep interactions with them reveal their biases and dangerous thoughts. Nowhere do they expose these thoughts more than on social media. They are usually quite outspoken about their views and abusively reply and threaten those who disagree with them.
In fact, social media is one way terrorist groups and individuals interact today. The new US visa social media policy could affect them greatly, and they could be even more affected if other countries join the party.
For instance, Australia’s visa practice requires applicants to have understanding of “Australian values”. Most fanatics and terrorist don’t share these values. They may be able to lie their way out in a face to face interview; but if social media checks are made, they’ll be found out easily.
So identifying them is a pretty welcome development for everybody.
People Who Openly Plan To Overstay their Visas
Applying for a US visa is a pretty delicate issue. The embassy takes every precaution to ensure visa applicants are who they say they are and are not planning to travel and never return. And beyond terrorism, people who overstay on visa are the next biggest issue for embassies.
Unfortunately, many Nigerians on social media have shared their plans to “jakpa”, ie to travel “to the abroad” and never come back. A recent stat reveals that nearly 30,000 Nigerians have overstayed their US visas. And the Trump administration is looking to address this issue. And your social media history is just one tool for them to get you with.
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