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immigration and visa

Social Media and Visa Applications

Social Media and Visa Applications

On May 30, 2019, the Department of State added social media questions to immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications.  The questions collect information concerning social media usage over a variety of platforms and websites over the last five years. The form among other things, requests that applicants provide their personal usernames to a variety of social networking platforms from the last five years, including Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Reddit, Twitter, Weibo, Youtube, and more.

Unfortunately, the questions regarding usage are unclear and if an applicant answers they do not wish to share any additional social media accounts, it can be interpreted as applicants stating they have not used any other social media accounts. The impact of this confusion is yet to be determined, but the need to consider an applicant’s social media usage in immigration cases is now more important than ever. 

Because the questions on the visa applications pertain to social media use over the past five years, simply deactivating a social media account does not mean the information must not be provided – just as an expunged conviction does not remove its immigration consequences. Furthermore, failing to disclose any social media accounts in 2020 would likely raise suspicions on the part of a consular officer and possibly trigger an investigation and further delays in consular processing. As a result, it has become extremely important to be responsible for our social media presence. 

As these questions are fairly new, we are unsure as to how certain social media content will be interpreted by the Consulates. AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) has plenty of questions regarding the potential impact of this data collection: 

“For example, should political speech or even anti-American speech on a visa applicant’s social media be considered protected speech under the First Amendment? Must a visa applicant suppress feelings toward social and political issues because they do not want to have problems obtaining a U.S. visa? Is there a basis for a visa to be refused or denied based on an officer’s perception of an applicant’s social or political views as undesirable? If in doubt should a visa applicant “clean” his or her social media or phone content?”

  • Practice Pointer: Advising Your Clients Regarding Social Media Information Collected on Forms DS-160 and DS-260, Department of State Liaison Committee, Jared Leung

We still do not have clear answers to these questions, nevertheless it is important to remember the following:

  • All answers on visa applications must be truthfully answered
  • If a simple internet search reveals the applicant’s content, the consulate will be able to do likewise
  • Any hint of criminal activities, such as use of controlled substances, terrorism affiliation, addiction, affiliation with anti-democratic or communist organizations or child pornography to name a few, will be closely scrutinized. 

We will continue to monitor any developments in this area. A lawsuit has already been filed to challenge the requirement which is still pending. Regardless of the outcome, we can all be cautious and wise in the social media content we create and share.