Applicants for U.S. Visas and Green Cards Must Now Disclose Social Media Profile Information
In response to the Trump Administration’s “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals entering the United States, the U.S. Department of State has increased the amount of personal data foreign nationals must provide when applying for a U.S. visa abroad. Federal government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), have dramatically expanded their social media monitoring programs in recent years by collecting a vast amount of user information in the process, such as political and religious views, data about physical and mental health, and the identity of family and friends. DHS increasingly uses this information for vetting and analysis, including for individuals seeking to enter the United States and for both U.S. and international travelers.
As of May 30, 2019, applicants completing the Form DS-160 (the standard online platform for all non-immigrant visa applications) and the Form DS-260 (the standard online platform for immigrant (“Green Card”) applications), must now provide information on all social media accounts used in the past five years. This information will be used to prevent visa and Green Card fraud.
Using dropdown menus, the Form DS-160 and DS-260 requires applicants to provide the names of all social media accounts used (lists 20 of the most popular social medial platforms), and the applicant’s username or “handle” for each account. The form also provides a text box to provide social media information not listed in the drop-down menu.
Failure to provide this information can lead to delayed processing of applications, or even outright denial of an application. Therefore, it is extremely important that applicants provide as much detail as possible because U.S. immigration officials have the ability to cross-reference information provided in an application.
Additionally, anyone planning on traveling to the United States in the future should be extra vigilant when it comes to posting on social media. Even joking about something that could be construed as a threat to the United States could have negative consequences when applying for a visa. Applicants should also be prepared to answer questions regarding their social media usage during immigration interviews at U.S. embassies and consulates.
Finally, it should also be noted that the U.S. Department of State has proposed, but not yet implemented, additional questions for the DS-160 and DS-260. These proposed questions request email addresses and telephone numbers for the past five years; information on past removal or deportation from any country; and information on any family member’s engagement with, or support of, terrorists or terrorist organizations for the past five years.
If you are concerned about how to complete the new questions on the DS-160 or DS-260, or if you believe your social media, immigration, or family history may present an obstacle to obtaining a U.S. visa or Green Card, the experienced attorneys at the Grady Firm, P.C. are here to help.
As a recommendation, applicants should ensure that their social media profiles are accurate and up-to-date, and that what’s displayed is consistent with the purpose for which they are seeking immigration relief.
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