U.S. State Department now requiring visa applicants to disclose social media information
The U.S. State Department (DOS), the agency responsible for adjudicating visa applications made at U.S. consulates around the world, has announced that it will collect social media “handles” from prospective visa applicants. This action is the result of President Trump’s March 6, 2017 Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits, as well as Trump’s Executive Order 13780.
Moving forward, immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants will be required to report their social media handles on Forms DS-260 and DS-160, respectively. The ostensible purpose of this requirement is to enhance DOS’s ability to detect security threats; however, U.S. immigration practitioners are challenging the effectiveness of this policy.
The Outside GC immigration team recommends that individuals who expect to apply for a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa take the following precautions:
- Create a list of all social media profiles, active or inactive, that the applicant has created for at least the past five (5) years;
- Carefully curate all social media content associated with each profile (be it original, shared, or re-shared content) to ensure that all potentially objectionable or sensitive material is either removed or made “private”; and
- Exercise judgement through a conservative lens of what material may be deemed “objectionable” or “sensitive," and be mindful of how material could reflect upon the applicant's sponsoring employer or family member.
Please note that this advice applies not only to new visa applicants, but also to individuals who are seeking a renewal of their current visa or a change to new type of visa.
Our immigration team will partner with clients and their sponsored employees to provide individualized advice and strategy development as the new policy is rolled out across U.S. consulates worldwide. Please contact Lori Geisinger (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Edward Farwell (email@example.com) with any questions.