U.S. Department of State Starts to Collect Social Media Identifiers from U.S. Visa Applicants
*Pasricha & Patel Takeaways*
U.S. Department of State has announced that starting on May 31, 2019, it has updated its non-immigrant and immigrant visa application forms (specifically, the form DS-160 and DS-260, respectively, as well as the paper back-up copy of the non-immigrant visa form DS-156), to request additional information, including social media identifiers, from most U.S. visa applicants worldwide.
As clarified by the U.S. Department of State’s FAQ section on this subject matter, 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 now list the specific social media platforms for which identifiers are being requested.
This means that ALL non-immigrant and immigrant visa applicants will be required to answer these questions, except for applicants applying for the following types of nonimmigrant visas: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (except attendants, servants, or personal employees of accredited officials), G-1, G-2, G3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 visas.
U.S. Department of State also clarifies that while this update applies to new visa applicants, those foreign nationals who already have U.S. visas will also be required to provide their social media handles later on, whenever they apply for visa renewals at U.S. consulate and embassy posts around the world.
U.S. Department of State also clarifies that those foreign nationals who travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (for example, ESTA program, and via Canada) do not have to fill out the DS-160 to begin with. And therefore, those foreign nationals would not be asked to provide any specific information about their social media handles.
U.S. Department of State explains that this update was already announced last year (2018) and it is now finally in place for enforcement, and it is in line with the Presidential Executive Order dated March 6, 2017, Memorandum of Implementing Heightened Screening of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits and Section 5 of the Executive Order 13780 that is related to implementing uniform screening and vetting standards for visa applications.
U.S. Department of State has also published a FAQ on this matter: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Enhanced%20Vetting/CA%20-%20FAQs%20on%20Social%20Media%20Collection%20-%206-4-2019%20(v.2).pdf, so readers are encouraged to consult this document too.
For any further updates about this, or any other new developments, we encourage readers to check back on our site regularly. And you have any more questions about this update, as well as any questions about the immigrant and non-immigrant visa application process, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our office.