In the spring of 2019, the U.S. State Department announced a new policy that would require all visa applicants to submit information about their social media presence. This includes foreign nationals who are applying for immigrant or nonimmigrant visas.
Visa applicants must now provide information about every social media platform they have used in the five (5) years prior to their application. They must include the name of the platform and the username or handle that they used on the platform. Applicants are not required to turn over their passwords. Applicants must also provide their email and phone number in addition to any email addresses or phone numbers they have used in the past five years.
This social media account information will give consular officials access to an individual’s pictures, locations, personal life events, and other personal information. This move is a step up from the broad surveillance that was enacted by the Homeland Security Department in 2017. In addition, in the past, the State Department has required social media information for those individuals who were flagged as requiring further inspection and individuals who were believed to pose a security risk.
Officials can use the information on these accounts to make a determination regarding whether they believe someone to be a security risk to the country. They can also look at friends and associates to see what kind of network the applicant has. In addition, there may be information on social media accounts that can help determine whether someone actually qualifies for the visa they are applying for or if they are trying to enter the country through fraud and deceit.
While social media information could be a useful tool for officials, the requirement could also be a disincentive to visa applicants who may see it as a psychological barrier to entering the United States. It may have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to participate in social media for fear their use may be interpreted incorrectly. It may also be an issue of privacy for some individuals who do not want the government to know the details of their daily lives.
If you are applying for a visa, you may want an experienced visa attorney to evaluate your case. At Serving Immigrants, Inc., we have the experience and the knowledge to guide you through the application process. Contact us online or call us at (305) 907-6151 to schedule a consultation.