Out of all the things that could cause the U.S. Department of State (USDS) to deny your visa, could Facebook be the biggest culprit? In June 2019, the State Department announced they would begin to request "most" US visa applicants' social media account information.
They announced their intention to do this in March, but many did not think it was legal. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union claim this move is highly politicized and threatens and discriminates against immigrants' freedom of speech. Others argue it is necessary for national security.
No matter your opinion, it is important to be aware of how these policies could affect your application.
Is there a history of this happening in the U.S.?
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has monitored social media information available in the public domain since 2012. This year, however, ICE faces intense scrutiny over the way they use Facebook and other social media platforms to target individuals for arrest.
Last June, the USDS included visa and citizenship questions about social media accounts and usage over the last five years. The Department claims that this is to modernize national security, and searches are limited to publicly accessible data.
What are they looking for?
The USDS claims they are only interested in those individuals who could have, or could be perceived to have, connections with national security concerns. However, in a volatile political environment, this definition could change wildly over the years to come.
They may ask for the following over the last five years:
- All social media sites used
- All account names or other online identity used
- Telephone numbers
- Email addresses
- International travel history
If you are concerned about how your internet use could be used against you during your visa application process, explore your legal options. You might be surprised to learn about your rights and protections.