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Why social media info is required from visa applicants

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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Q: I've heard that visa applicants now must provide social media information. What is this about?

A: The Department of State has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application forms to request additional information, including social media identifiers, from most US visa applicants. National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening. We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States. We already request certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants. Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.

Q. What forms are being updated?

A. We are updating our nonimmigrant visa online application form (DS-160), the paper back-up version of the nonimmigrant visa application (DS-156), and the online immigrant visa application form (DS-260).

Q. What specific changes are being made to visa application forms? What kind of information is being requested?

A. The updated forms collect social media identifiers.

Q. When will you begin implementing these changes?

A. The changes are effective immediately.

Q. Why are you implementing these changes now?

A. We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes and to support legitimate travel and immigration to the United States while protecting US citizens.

Q. What is a social media handle/identifier?

A. 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 visa application form will list the specific social media platforms for which identifiers are being requested.

Q. Will a visa application be denied if the applicant chooses not to provide social media information? What if they don't have a social media account?

A. A response to the questions related to social media will be required of most visa applicants. All visa applications are adjudicated by consular officers on a case-by-case basis in accordance with US law.

Visa applicants who have never used social media will not be refused on the basis of failing to provide a social media identifier.

Failure to provide accurate and truthful responses in a visa application may result in denial of the visa by a consular officer. In the case of an applicant who has used any of the social media platforms listed on the visa application in the preceding five years, the associated social media identifier would be required on the visa application form.

Q. Is this just another way to profile individuals by their religion, political views, or race?

A. Consular officers cannot deny visas based on applicants' race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, political views, gender, or sexual orientation.

The department will collect this information from visa applicants for identity resolution and to determine whether the applicant is eligible for a US visa under US law.

Visa ineligibilities are set forth in US law. Consular officers will not request user passwords and will not attempt to subvert any privacy controls applicants may have implemented on these platforms.

Q. Could the collection of this information be considered an invasion of privacy?

A. No. Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats. Consular officers would only use this information to determine the applicant's eligibility for a visa under existing US law.

The same safeguards and confidentiality provisions that already protect a visa applicant's personal information also apply to social media identifiers and all other newly collected information related to a visa application or adjudication. Consular officers will not request user passwords and will not attempt to subvert any privacy controls applicants may have implemented on these platforms.

Q. What safeguards are in place to protect applicants' private information? What about US citizens' information that might appear on social media?

A. The department limits its collection to information relevant to a visa adjudication. In accordance with US law, information collected in the nonimmigrant or immigrant visa application or adjudication process is considered confidential and may be used only for certain purposes expressly authorised by law—including the formulation, amendment, administration, or enforcement of US laws. The department is also taking measures to ensure that information from US persons that is inadvertently included in this collection is adequately protected in accordance with applicable privacy laws.

Q. Does the department share information from the visa application forms with other agencies?

A. The department works closely with partner agencies in the US Government to identify threats to US security, and to ensure that consular officers can review all relevant information about an applicant's eligibility for a US visa when adjudicating a case.

Q. What if applicants participate in multiple online platforms? Are they being asked to list all of their handles, or only one?

A. Applicants must provide all identifiers used for all listed platforms.

You can find more information about how to travel to the US on our website, www.jm.usembassy.gov and the website of our authorised service provider at https://usvisa-info.com Keep on top of embassy news on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/US-Embassy-Jamaica and by following @USEmbassyJA on Twitter. We also answer general visa questions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

For safety and security reasons, the US Embassy asks that all individuals arrive at the embassy no more than 15 minutes before their designated appointment time.


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