On May 31, 2019, the U.S. Department of State updated it’s immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application forms (Forms DS-260 and DS-160) to request information about “social media identifiers” from most U.S. visa applicants worldwide. A social media identifier means any social media or mobile communications accounts, identifiers, user names, short-code designations, handles, or nick-names. In addition to requiring disclosure of social media identifiers, the forms will also ask applicants to provide all phone numbers and email addresses that they have used in the past 5 years. This update is a direct result of the Trump Administration’s March 6, 2017, Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits and Section 5 of Executive Order 13780 regarding implementing uniform screening and vetting standards for visa applications.
The stated reason for requesting social media identifiers is to provide an enhanced layer of security screening for purposes of National Security. However, this broad sweeping mandate is also likely to serve as a powerful investigative tool to grant U.S. Immigration Authorities access to information that can be used to deny applications and petitions on discretionary grounds based upon suspicion and circumstantial evidence. Because many social media posts are very informal and are often published for their entertainment, comedy, or “shock” value, when they are viewed through the lens of an Immigration Officer armed with discretionary authority to approve or deny a petition or application, there always exists a possibility that a post will be misunderstood or taken out of context and used against the applicant or petition in some unforeseen way.
Note, that while this particular policy change only covers applications filed with the U.S. Department of State by overseas applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas, given the Trump Administration’s current crackdown on enforcement and implementation of tougher policies on every level, it is reasonable to expect that this same policy will soon be implemented across the board to apply to applicants for all U.S. Immigration benefits filed with USCIS as well. For this reason, all applicants for U.S. Immigration benefits would be well advised to exercise sound judgment regarding any content that they post on social media platforms, as these posts may be subject to increased scrutiny at some point in the near future.
To schedule an appointment to speak with South Florida Immigration Lawyer, Sean D. Hummel, call (954) 385-3111 or email: email@example.com