Virtually all visa and green-card applications now require candidates to state the social media platforms they currently use or have used within the past five years. Candidates must also supply all user names they have used on those platforms.
The U.S. Department of State has updated its Form DS-160 (online nonimmigrant visa application) and Form DS-260 (online immigrant visa application) requiring the information. These online forms, which applicants submit for processing at a U.S. Embassy or consulate, contain a drop-down menu. The menu lists 20 specific platforms based in the U.S. and abroad, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
In addition, these forms ask applicants to provide any past telephone numbers and email addresses, and international travel and deportation status from the past five years. Applicants who cannot recall all details may select “unknown” in response. However, they could face additional screening during visa processing.
Collecting the additional social media information stems from President Trump’s memorandum for the Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security. That memo called for implementing procedures that “will enhance the screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits.”
Previously, social media histories, emails, and phone numbers had only been sought from visa applicants selected for additional screening. During the Obama administration, the State Department began asking visa applicants to voluntarily provide social media information. The Obama administration also began pilot projects that screened social media accounts, such as for applicants for K-1 fiancé(e) visas.
How Will the Info Be Used?
Consulate officers will use the additional information to determine an applicant’s identity and visa eligibility. Only certain diplomatic and official visas and those traveling under the Visa Waiver Program are exempt from the requirements.
Please note, consular officers will not and should not ask for your social media account passwords. Officers will not have the ability to modify privacy controls that visa applicants may have set up on their accounts.
What Should You Do?
Increasingly, immigration officials are looking on social media to conduct some background checks and verifying statements visa applicants provide. You should always provide complete and accurate information on all visa and other immigration-related forms. Any deceit or misrepresentation can get you barred from the U.S.
Remember, deleting a social media account does not guarantee all the information connected to that account will be deleted.
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