Applicants for immigrant visas may be surprised to see a new question on the electronic DS 260 application pertaining to social media. As of May 31, 2019, the immigrant visa application (and reportedly the electronic DS 160 nonimmigrant visa application as well) now feature arguably invasive questions requesting information regarding social media platforms used within the last five years. Applicants are requested to list their usernames (or "handles") for the following sites/apps/programs:
· Google +
· Sina Weibo
Roughly two years ago, the Department of State had begun incorporating this question on a supplemental form, Form DS 5535. However, the supplemental form was only required for individuals who were designated for further vetting due to terrorism and/or national security related concerns. Now, with the standardization of this question on the general form, all applicants will be required to undergo heightened scrutiny if they have been on any form of social media in the last five years. Given the ubiquity and integration of social media in the average person's life, the vast majority of visa applicants will likely have to answer this question, save a small contingent of elderly people who are not familiar with or who don't use these virtual platforms to express themselves or interact with others.
This change may result in processing delays and visa approvals, as the Department of State examines applicants' usage, posts, and interactions. How digital footprints, search queries and content influence one's immigration prospects will soon be seen in the next couple of months.
The above is general information only and not intended to serve as legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice.