Applicants for U.S. Visas Abroad Now Required to Provide Social Media Information

Applying for a temporary visa to come to the U.S. or a permanent resident visa? Expect to have to provide information about your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts for potential U.S. government scrutiny.

By , J.D.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

In May 2019, the U.S. Department of State began asking U.S. visa applicants at consulates abroad for information related to their social media use during the previous five years.

The new social media questions are found on Forms DS-160 and DS-156 ("nonimmigrant" or temporary visa application forms) as well as Form DS-260 (the "immigrant" or permanent visa application form).

The new questions ask applicants to list the social media accounts they have used in the last five years and the usernames or handles to these accounts. Applicants choose accounts from a drop-down menu on the electronic form, which users have found to include platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Applicants are asked to not list their account passwords.

The new policy affects applicants for all types of visas at consulates abroad, including family-based, employment-based, tourist, and student visas.

The policy, however, affects only people applying for visas abroad. It does not affect anyone applying for green cards within the U.S. (through the procedure known as "adjustment of status") or applying for temporary visas from within the U.S. (also known as a "change of status, " for example from tourist/visitor to some other status, or in some cases an "extension of status").

According to an official from the U.S. State Department, the new policy is intended to be a "tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals from gaining immigration benefits and setting foot on U.S. soil."

Given that the primary concern of the new policy is national security, visa applicants should be careful to not post anything on their personal social media pages that implies a gang or terrorist affiliation, even in a joking manner. Such posts could lead to visa delays or denials.

In addition to national security concerns, any information on social media that would show you are subject to a ground of inadmissibility or not eligible for the visa you are applying for, could be used to deny your entry to the U.S. or delay your application.

For example, if you claim to work for a certain company for an employment-based visa, but your social media shows you working for another company, your application could be called into question. Any social media posts which show you engaging in any type of illegal activity could also subject you to a ground of admissibility and lead to your visa application being denied.

In response to the new policy, visa applicants might want to review their social media accounts and delete content that might be problematic or misconstrued.

Visa applicants might also want to review the privacy settings on their social media accounts and make accounts private or restricted. As the new visa form questions do not ask the applicant to reveal passwords, it is less likely that officials will be able to review content that is private or has restricted accessibility.

While social media users have every right to enhance their privacy settings, deliberately concealing social media accounts or falsifying social media information could be considered immigration fraud and lead to a visa denial or being barred from entering the United States.

Effective Date: May 31, 2019