Consular officers have already been checking social media accounts, but only for applicants who were flagged for extra scrutiny. Now, however, the State Department will actually request social media information in the very beginning of the application process, from almost every applicant.
The new State Department rule, which went into effect on May 31, adds several questions to the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa application. This is the application used for any nonimmigrant, temporary visas, such as tourist visas, student visas, and E-2 investor visas. Now when applicants fill out this form, they will need to provide any social media identities they have used in the past five years, on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Besides social media accounts, the application will also ask for any old phone numbers or email addresses from the past five years. This change will affect 14 million visa applications a year.
Carl C. Risch, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs with the State Department, said when publishing this rule that this extra information will be used “for identity resolution and vetting purposes.” Another official explained to The Hill, “As we’ve seen around the world in recent years, social media can be a major forum for terrorist sentiment and activity. This will be a vital tool to screen out terrorists, public safety threats, and other dangerous individuals from gaining immigration benefits and setting foot on U.S. soil.”
While the new rule’s purpose is to prevent terrorist threats to the United States, these new efforts to research an applicant’s social media history will likely cause other obstacles in the visa application process, obstacles that have nothing to do with discovering terrorist activity. With this visa application growing longer, and requiring more personal information be included in a consular officer’s review, it is more important than ever to have expert legal advice and assistance on your side while you apply for a visa. With years of experience and thousands of successful visa approvals for our clients, we have learned how to best prevent issues and conflicts in the consular interview, and can tell you what to expect based on your particular circumstances.
We offer a free in-person consultation at any of our offices in Orange, Fresno, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bruno, California, as well as Orem and Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho.
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ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
J.J. Despain is an associate attorney in Salt Lake City for W&O’. He practices employment-based and family-based immigration law. J.J. graduated from Brigham Young University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications with an emphasis in print journalism. He spent two years as an opinions editor, sports editor, and web editor for the campus newspaper, The Daily Universe. J.J. also earned minors in both Spanish and political science. After his undergraduate studies, J.J. attended law school at the University of Iowa College of Law. In Iowa, J.J. was the president of the student chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, a managing editor of the Iowa Law Review, a judicial clerk for the Honorable Stephanie M. Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa and was involved with the Latino Law Students Association and Sports Law Society.
RICHARD M. WILNER – FOUNDING PARTNER
Richard M. Wilner is a founding member of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC and is Board Certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is admitted to practice law in the State of California and before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.Mr. Wilner has received the coveted Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, the highest legal and ethical rating that one can receive from one’s peers in the legal community. Similarly, he has been awarded the title of Super Lawyer from 2007 to the present. He is best known for his work in advising Fortune 500 companies, middle and small market businesses, entrepreneurs and foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, and sciences in the complex area of U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law.