A couple of days ago, the Department of State quietly added new questions to the DS-160 and DS-260 nonimmigrant visa and immigrant visa application forms. The new questions ask applicants to provide their social media information. Specifically, the questions ask:
Select from the list below each social media platform you have used within the last five years. In the space next to the platform’s name, enter the user name or handle you have used on that platform. If you have used more than one platform or more than one username or handle on a single platform, click the ‘Add Another’ button to list each one separately. If you have not used any of the listed social media platforms in the last five years, select “None”. The dropdown manual lists the following social media platforms:
- QZONE (QQ)
- SINA WEIBE
- TENCENT WEIBO
- VKONTAKTE (VK)
The explanation states: “Enter information associated with your online presence, including the types of online providers/platforms, applications, and websites that you use to collaborate, share information, and interact with others. List the username, handle, screenname, or other identifiers associated with your social media profile. You do not need to list accounts designed for use by multiple users within a business or other organization.”
They have not asked for the password, YET.
However, this is indicative of a trend that has been going on for a while. Many recruiters and hiring managers admit that they have checked out applicants’ social media accounts as part of the selection process. It seems the Department of State has caught on as well. They now want to check out what an applicant has posted on his/her social media as part of the visa application process.
Applicants for US nonimmigrant or immigrant visas are now on notice that their social media footprints will be considered in the adjudication of their application.
The Administration has not provided any guidance on how this information will be used. Will a protest against the current US trade and immigration policies be considered offensive by the visa officer and result in a visa denial? Will messages critical of or making fun of the Administration be grounds for visa denial? We simply do not know. We have already heard that social media accounts containing records of marijuana use or promotion might have been used as grounds for visa denial, even though the use is entirely legal in the country of the applicant.
Visa applicants should review their social media accounts and perhaps delete “questionable” postings, which may affect their visa applications. Visa applicants should additionally make any social media profile private. While this appears to go strongly against the First Amendment Rights provided in the U.S. Constitution, it seems constitutional rights are not considered for those people outside the US and are checked at the very doorstep of coming to America.