Advice for using social media in light of new visa screening process

I’ve written a number of recent articles about the Trump administration’s new procedure for additional screening of visa applicants. Here is a brief summary: President Trump has recently approved a process of additional screening for select visa applicants, to be implemented immediately. Only some visa applicants will undergo additional screening—those consular officers believe may pose a threat to national security. The screening will take the form of a questionnaire (form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants) that asks for information covering the last 15 years. This includes applicants’ social media handles.

Because social media information is part of the additional screening process, all visa applicants should exercise caution in their social media activity. This caution is especially important because little is known how applicants’ online presence will be used and evaluated in the screening process.

Here are some basic recommendations that, if followed, will help you ensure your internet activities don’t jeopardize your visas petitions, in the event you are selected for additional screening.

1.Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a consular officer to read.

Above all, exercise common sense. That is, when considering any action online, ask yourself if it could result in difficult questions in an immigration interview.

2.Don’t advertise your new job before your visa is officially granted.

If you’ve been given a promise of a job position in the US, don’t advertise the job on social media before your visa is granted. This may strike consular officers as presumptuous, given you do not yet have the legal right to work in the US.

3.Expect that your internet search history may be investigated.

Apart from the additional screening process, increased scrutiny at airports of digital devices means that your internet search histories (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may also be subject to review by US Customs and Border Protection officers. You should review your search histories on all your digital devices before arriving, and consider the questions that they may raise.

While the likelihood of being selected for additional screening is low, the personal stakes are high in any visa application. I strongly recommend you protect yourself in any way possible, and contact your immigration attorney if you have any questions or concerns.    

Vaughan de Kirby
California Immigration Attorney
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