The US Department of State has recently added a requirement for most US visa applicants to submit their social media information.
Previously, this requirement applied only to foreigners who were picked out for higher scrutiny, such as those who had visited terrorist-controlled areas. Now, all visa hopefuls, except for certain diplomatic and official applicants, will have to provide this information in the revised forms. About 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants and 710,000 immigrant visa applicants must now satisfy this requirement.
What Social Media Details Are Required For A US Visa?
The forms for DS160 and DS156 application (non-immigrant visa) and for DS260 application (immigrant visa) have these new requirements:
- From this list of social media platforms, applicants must click on the ones they have had in the last five years, and provide their identifier (username, user ID, handle, or screen name) for each existing account:
- If the applicant has a social media platform that is not on the list, they have the option to voluntarily provide their identifier for any unlisted site.
- If the applicant has no social media account at all, they can state so in the form. State Department officials, however, have warned that applicants who are found lying about not having a social media account could face serious immigration consequences.
- An applicant must also list their previous telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travels in the last five years.
- An applicant must also divulge whether they have been deported from any country.
- Every applicant must tell officials if any family member has been involved in terrorist activities.
Note that social media screening only requires identifiers but not passwords nor other log-in credentials. Officers will not request to log in to any applicant’s account during examination.
Will Social Media Information Affect Visa Applicants’ Chances?
The State Department says that these additional information requirements are intended to strengthen their vetting of applicants and to help them confirm their identities. These social media identifiers will be included in a background check against US watchlists to help screen out public safety threats.
Some applicants and groups, though, are concerned that social media screening is intrusive and easily misleading. An official could, for example, misinterpret a social media post, emoji, or religious or political sentiment. Applicants who have shared links or other content could be taken to affiliate with a certain organization or movement that they are not involved in.
Adding to these concerns, there is currently no hard-and-fast criteria as to how consular officers will evaluate social media information. Advocates say this leaves room for unfair profiling and censorship.
Though this new screening may cause additional anxieties for visa hopefuls, they must remain forthcoming in their application. Hiding or deleting social media information could be discovered and misconstrued by officers, leading to a visa denial.
Social Media Tips For US Visa Applicants
- Gather all social media accounts, including those you have not actively used. List down all your usernames and handles.
- Update your existing profile information to reflect your current and accurate status. This may include the bio, employment, address, contact details, and affiliations that appear on your profile. Note that if you have not provided these details on social media, you are not required to do so now.
- Review your posts with the assumption that consular officers will read them. Be prepared to discuss them if or when needed.
- Be mindful of your social media activity from this time forward.
- Talk to a visa lawyer if you are troubled by this social media screening. Having an attorney on your side is the best way to protect yourself from unjust visa reviews.
The experienced attorneys at Richards & Jurusik can provide the guidance and protection you need. Call us today at 716-970-4007