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US Visa Applicants Now Required To Provide Social Media Identifiers

On May 31, 2019, the US Department of State updated their Form DS-160 (online nonimmigrant visa application) and Form DS-260 (online immigrant visa application) to collect social media identifiers for those applying for nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. Applicants for US visas are now being asked to provide all social media identifiers they have used within the past five (5) years. This update was announced in a statement to the press by a US Department of State official on June 1, 2019.

A social media “handle” or “identifier” is any name used by the individual on social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The updated visa application forms currently employ a drop-down menu which list the specific social media platforms for which identifiers are being requested. An example of the drop-down menu from online visa application form can be seen below:

It is important to note that the US Department of State IS NOT asking applicants to provide the passwords to their social media accounts. Consular Officers will not ask applicants to provide the passwords to their social media accounts, and will not have the ability to modify privacy controls visa applicants may have implemented on their accounts.

In addition to requesting applicants’ social media identifiers, the US Department of State is also asking applicants to provide five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

The above changes to the Form DS-160 and Form DS-260 only applies to visa applicants, and does not apply to individuals traveling under the Visa Waiver Program.

The immigration authorities are increasingly relying on social media as a method for conducting low-level background checks and testing the veracity of statements provided to immigration officers.

Additional information regarding the new social media identifier requirements can be found here.

© 2020 Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 158



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