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U.S. visa applicants need to provide social media info

Failure or inability to include five years of online presence including identities and other identifiers such as aliases or passwords could be basis for visa refusal.

Crispin ArandaOriginally posted on April 1, 2018; updated April 1, 2018

U.S. visa applicants need to provide social media info

No social media information: No visa.

This could very well be the fate of an estimated 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants if they do not provide their social media information for the last five years when completing the Online DS 160 visa application form.

The proposal to include an applicant’s social media history was sent by the Department of State to the Office of Management and Budget on March 29, 2018.

This OMB request followed a similar proposal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on June 23, 2016.

The DS-160 is used to collect biographical information from individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa. The consular officer uses the information collected to determine the applicant's eligibility for a visa. 

While request for the social media info is voluntary, non-disclosure of social media info could be a basis for visa refusal since the questions are part of the criteria for determining an applicant’s eligibility for visa issuance.

For those who have no access to the DS 160, the paper form DS 156 may be used. 

Visa holders still not sure of being admitted

When traveling to the U.S., the visa holder would again be asked about his or her online presence and social media info.  Most visit visa holders complete the I-94 Form. Applicants from participating countries under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) fill out the I-94W.

The Forms I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) and I-94W (Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record) are issued by the Customs and Border Protection agency to enable the DHS to “screen alien visitors for potential risks to national security as well as to determine a visa holder’s admissibility.”

The I-94 and I-94W forms collect information on citizenship, residency, passport, and contact information.  A citizen from a VWP country provides the information before traveling to the U.S.  The data is then stored in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) allowing the VWP alien to be admitted without presenting the printed form I-94W.

The proposed changes by DHS 

The request forwarded to the OMB states the specific information requested: 

 “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” It will be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information. Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

Social media information requested on Form DS 160:

  1.  Lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifiers used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of application. The platforms listed may be updated by the Department by adding or removing platforms.” 
  2.  Gives the applicant the option to provide information about any social media identifiers associated with any platforms other than those that are listed that the applicant has used in the last five years. 
  3. Requests data covering the applicant’s five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travel; whether the applicant has been deported or removed from any country; and whether specified family members have been involved in terrorist activities. 
  4. Asks certain E-nonimmigrant visa applicants whether the principal treaty trader was issued a visa.
  5. Allows the applicant to provide additional information related to correcting records within the Federal Bureau of Investigation databases on the “Sign and Submit” statement. 
  6. Requires additional information regarding the visa medical examination that some applicants may be required to undergo.

The State Department “will collect this information from visa applicants for identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards except for most diplomatic and official visa applicants.” 

The proposal was published in the Federal Register. All interested individuals and organizations may submit their comments up to May 29, 2018.


Authors & Contributors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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