Visa Applications Include Social Media Accounts

December 17, 2019

Vineland immigration lawyers help clients with visa applications that are now incorporating personal social media accounts.Several months ago, the U.S. Department of State updated two online forms, and those applying for U.S. visas in the future may want to be aware of the changes. The two forms affected are:

  • Form DS-260
  • Form DS-160

There is a new requirement that asks applicants to provide all the social media identifiers that they used during the past five years, and there are other changes as well. More social media is being used to conduct lower-level background checks that may improve vetting and screening. The information will be used to discern if applicants are eligible for visas under current U.S. laws. These updates do not apply to those who are traveling through the Visa Waiver Program, and certain types of nonimmigrant visas.

What is a Social Media Identifier?

Also called a social media handle, this refers to all names used by the applicant on social media platforms. This includes, but is not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The online application has a drop-down menu that lists the platforms that require the identifiers. It is not necessary to provide passwords though, and the Consular Officers will be unable to alter the privacy controls on these accounts.

The US Department of State is also mandating that applicants give previous email addresses, telephone numbers, and international travel and deportation statuses from the past five years. They will also need to provide details if any family members were involved in terrorist activities. Reuters reported that applicants will also need to provide 15 years of information pertaining to previous employment, travel history, passport numbers, and addresses.

Reasons for Change

These changes are estimated to affect approximately 15 million applicants each year. In the past, only select applicants, such as those who traveled to regions with terrorist activity were required to provide social media identifiers. The State Department released a statement explaining that the new forms would enhance their screening efforts and improve national security.

The new forms are only used for individuals seeking new visa applications, but it is important to keep in mind that visa applicants are still screened continuously even after they apply. Visa applicants that have never been on social media will not be refused on this basis. However, if this response is not truthful they may be denied.

The social media vetting is not considered to be an invasion of privacy, as there are confidentiality provisions and safeguards to protect applicants’ personal information. The information collected is limited to what is relevant for visa adjudication. Also, visas cannot be denied based on applicants’ religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political view, or national origin.

Vineland Immigration Lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC Advocate for U.S. Visa Applicants

Understanding the constantly changing U.S. immigration laws can be challenging, and the experienced Vineland immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC are ready to help you. For a free case evaluation, complete our online form or call us at 215-496-0690. Located in Philadelphia, we help families throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.