On May 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) added a social media question to Form DS-160, which is the standard online application used by individuals seeking to apply for a nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States. The new question requires applicants to use a drop-down list to indicate each social media platform they have used during the last five years.
The drop-down list includes 20 popular social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube. Applicants must also provide any identifiers or handles they have used on those social media platforms. DOS also added a similar item to the Form DS-260 online immigrant visa application.
According to DOS statements, the addition of the social media question is the first of two phases of updates to the DS-160 and DS-260. The second phase of updates will include several additional revisions to the DS-160 and DS-260 forms, including a mandatory field requesting five years of previously used telephone numbers and email addresses and a question asking whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
The DOS has noted that this information will be collected and used for “identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards.” Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types will be exempt from providing this information.
Recommendations: In light of the recent changes to the DS-160 and DS-260 application, visa applicants should be aware that immigration officers may be viewing their social media history and activity. While use of any particular social media platform alone is unlikely to trigger a visa denial or border stop, applicants’ online profiles and any information publicly available on their accounts, including employment details, could provide grounds for further questioning.
Visa applicants should make sure their social media settings and profiles are up to date and be prepared to answer questions regarding information available on their social media accounts at their visa interview. Travelers entering the U.S. on a valid visa for business or employment should be sure that their online profiles are up to date and consistent with their intended purpose of travel and terms of their visa.
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