U.S. Department of State Adds Questions about Visa Applicants’ Social Media
June 6, 2019
Effective May 31, 2019 the United States Department of State has updated visa application forms to include questions about applicants’ social media presence. This change stems from the President’s March 16, 2017 Executive Order 13780 directing Cabinet Officials to implement procedures to enhance the screening and vetting of applicants for visa benefits.
Notably, Visa Waiver (ESTA) travelers will not be asked about their social media identifiers. Nor will those who are in the US and already have visas.
All new visa applicants for nonimmigrant visa and immigrant visas at U.S. Consulates (exceptions only for certain A, C, G, NATO nonimmigrant visa categories) will now be required to provide on the application forms information for their “handles,” “identifiers,” or any other name used on social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The forms now list the specific social media platforms for which the information is sought. If an applicant has no social media accounts, they will be able to respond with “None” on their application.
Consular officers will not request user passwords associated with these identifiers. Nor will consular officers be able to modify applicants’ privacy controls implemented on the platforms. If the social media account is “public” the Department of State will look for evidence of fraudulent answers or malicious intent. The information collected will be used for identity resolution and to determine whether an applicant is eligible for a U.S. visa under the law.
The State Department confirms that the information collected through the visa application process, including social media information, is considered and will be treated as confidential information. The government has also affirmed that consular officers cannot deny visas on the basis of an applicant’s race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation. Nevertheless, visa applicants should be cautious about publicly available information on their social media that could lead to or be interpreted by a consular officer as a ground of inadmissibility, including for example terrorist activities or engaging in prostitution.
For more detailed information please see the State Department’s Social Media FAQs.https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Enhanced%20Vetting/CA%20-%20FAQs%20on%20Social%20Media%20Collection%20-%206-4-2019%20(v.2).pdf