Will USCIS Look at My Online Social Networking Postings?

The U.S. government may look for online clues about whether or not your marriage is real.

Question

I’m applying for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, but I lead a sort of unconventional lifestyle, and haven’t been shy about talking about it on Facebook and other social networking sites. Should I worry that the immigration people will look at this when judging whether my marriage is fraudulent or not?

Answer

In short, yes, though it’s difficult to find out exactly how extensive the plans and powers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are in this situation. The U.S. government is definitely experimenting with the matter of using social media as a screening method for terrorists, security risks, and so on, having tried out various short-term or pilot programs, as detailed by the Brennan Center. Such screening is certainly not automatic at this point, nor done in all cases.

Many comments made by immigration officials however, for example to immigration lawyers at conferences and meetings, suggest that applicants' privacy settings are not a bar to government monitoring. If they want to, they will find a way to look at whatever you’ve posted on social networks. More and more often they simply ask applicants for their social network handles and even passwords to their devices (for example, during a U.S. border inspection).

After poking through people’s social network pages, for example, DHS officials report that they’ve found instances in which the applicant for a marriage-based green card (lawful permanent residence) state on Facebook that their marital status is “single,” a fact that definitely weighs against the applicant.

Other ways in which an applicant could raise doubts or concerns in the mind of immigration officials are endless: posting lots of photos of fun times with friends but not with one’s U.S. citizen spouse, bragging about having engaged in criminal activity (don’t laugh, criminals have been arrested based on such disclosures), mentioning illegal use of drugs (a ground of inadmissibility), failing to say a thing about one’s wedding despite having posted about every other major and minor incident in one’s life for the past year, and so on.

You haven’t given details on what you’ve revealed through your Facebook page, but at least make sure your status says "married!

See the "Marriage-Based Visas and Green Cards" section of Nolo's website for more information on your eligibility and the application process.

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