UK visa applicants ‘social media accounts to be vetted’

24 Dec 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

British immigration authorities have reportedly been ordered to check people’s social media accounts when they are applying for a UK visa, in a policy echoing one that has already been introduced in the US.

The policy is being enacted to “root out extremists or terrorist sympathisers”, according to The Daily Telegraph, which said the measures are part of the Government’s counter-extremism efforts.

Britain’s counter-extremism strategy includes excluding people for “unacceptable behaviour” in the past as well as the present, and allows visa applications to be rejected if officials believe the applicant’s “presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good”.

It also says: “We will ensure that more information on an individual’s extremist behaviour is available to the officers making these visa decisions, through better data-sharing and casework interviews where needed.”

A source told the Telegraph that this included checking some applicants’ social media accounts, but that this would be done case by case, and not adopted as a general policy for deciding all UK visa applications.

It comes after it was revealed that the US has already been using similar tactics since earlier this year. However, the US Department of Homeland Security has been criticised for failing to pick up that Tashfeen Malik, who with her partner killed 14 people in San Bernardino, had used a Facebook account to show her support for an Islamic jihad. She entered the US on a fiancée visa to join her partner.

American Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said: "There are some legal limits to what we can do. But consulting social media is something that since I've been secretary I believe that we need to do and we have begun that."