UNITED STATES - Visa Applicants Now Required to Disclose Social Media Accounts
Effective immediately, the US Department of State has updated its nonimmigrant and immigrant visa forms, requiring most applicants to list all personal social media accounts, with usernames or handles (not passwords), along with telephone numbers and email addresses, dating back five years, when completing the the standard visa application forms.
Who is affected?
All nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants are required to submit the requested social media information, except for those applying for designated A, C, G and NATO visas. For now, those travelling under the Visa Waiver Program (with ESTA travel clearance) are not required to provide social media identifiers. This requirement previously applied only to applicants flagged for additional vetting.
What will this data be used for?
Social media account data will contribute to the extensive security background check that the authorities completed by consulates before issuing any US visa, in conjunction with of various US security agencies.
Is this mandatory?
All information requested on form DS-160 must be provided. If an applicant has not used any of the social media platforms listed on the application form, he or she may select “none” to reflect that.
If applicants fail to provide accurate, complete and truthful information in any part of their visa application, this could be found to be fraud or misrepresentation, and could lead to denial of the application and even a permanent immigration ban. Note that social media accounts and posts cannot easily be erased from the internet.
This new requirement is likely to delay immigration application processing, and may lead to more refusals. In addition, foreign nationals should be prepared to be questioned by consular officers about their social media accounts and posts when they attend their visa interviews.
Prior to completing the visa application form, applicants should compile a list of their social media accounts, telephone numbers and email addresses dating back five years; and should ensure that personal information on their social media accounts is up to date. Employers should communicate the new requirements to their employees. Employers who may be affected are encouraged to contact their Newland Chase immigration specialist for case-specific advice.