There have been many speculations as to why some applicants are denied visas when all their documents are intact. Or why they are turned back by immigration at the point of entry even though these travelers have a visa in their possession. There have been no absolute answers to these concerns.
But, one constant that cannot be overlooked is that a discovery was made about these applicants that disqualified them. Some analysts and immigration attorneys located in Louisiana associated this event with the social media content of the applicants’ profiles.
However, since there was no proof that this was the reason for those denials, that argument fizzled out. Can immigrants’ posts on social media affect their immigration process? Let’s find out.
Does what you post on social media matter?
The discourse on whether social media posts can impact immigration has gained renewed momentum since 2019. This is after the US Department of State (DOS) announced in May 2019 that visa applicants are now required to provide their social media account names for review.
This news threw a new spanner in the works of individuals with immigrant status seeking citizenship and created more folders for new applicants to sort through before going to embassies.
As you open yourself up for scrutiny by the relevant authorities when you make applications, you will learn here a few things you must know about your social media use.
The reach and limits of the DHS and relevant agencies
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is one of the agencies that are involved in the monitoring and/or review of your social media accounts as a visa applicant, naturalized citizen, or immigrant. They scrutinize your account for content that could be a potential threat to national security.
This department, in association with the US Consular, also screens for languages or relationships with individuals that pose a security threat to the country. If certain immigrants like asylum seekers, for instance, seek certain benefits but their social media content does not reflect this reality or danger, they can be denied a visa.
The DHS collates information gathered from social media accounts and stores them in files called A-files. The limitation to the powers of the DHS is that they cannot request passwords or any authentication code that will give them operational access to your social media accounts.
What will you be required to disclose?
The disclosure of details of one’s private accounts used to be limited to immigrants arriving or applying from countries tagged “high-security risk countries.” But reviewed policies and immigration reforms have now subjected every foreigner to the same scrutiny.
As a visa applicant, you will be required to disclose the following:
- The email addresses and phone numbers used within the last five years.
- The social media platforms used within the same time frame as above.
- A list of the names or aliases on these social media accounts
What aspects of your social media use can be under scrutiny?
Instagram is a bubbly platform for those vacation pictures or some of your business posts. It can also be a good platform to also keep up with your family and friends. Twitter may also be an excellent pedestal to launch and champion the activism campaign you are involved in.
But some of this content can disqualify you from certain visas and benefits if you are found wanting after social media account validation by the DHS. It can, for example, incriminate people who are trying to commit marriage fraud for a green card but have posts that are inconsistent with their marriage claims.
To prevent such unfortunate occurrence, you can take steps to check the following kinds of content or affiliations on your social media accounts:
- Offensive posts and comments
These are the obvious contents to avoid. If your posts can be perceived to be discriminatory against a particular group of people, you can be denied a visa.
Likewise, posts that instigate violent acts and hate or incite people to attack others, no matter how cloaked in the garment of opinion they are, can disqualify you.
- Comedic content
Comedy can be satirical or it can simply mirror everyday life events. The assumption of ignorance or humor will not suffice if you post comedy skits on your socials that can be linked to support heavy subject matters such as rape, gang action, or even terrorism.
This can negatively impact the success of your immigration application. Your jokes should not touch on sensitive matters especially if they are to be posted on your social media accounts.
- Comments from friends
As far-fetched as this might seem, the comments made by your friends and connections on your social media platforms can influence the decision on your application.
While you may not have control over what others decide to post on your profile, you should consider restricting what appears on it after they have been posted.
- Past history
The internet never forgets. It doesn’t matter if a post was made ten years ago. If it is incriminating and suggests a history of drug abuse or criminal activity, it can be grounds enough to deny your immigration benefits or deny your visa application success.
How can you protect yourself?
It is a generally held consensus that setting your social media posts private can buffer you against the possible consequences of having questionable content on your social media. Since there is no request for passwords, your posts set to private cannot be accessed by agencies such as DHS.
These agencies also do not use spy technology to pry into or view the posts of the applicants. You can also delete all doubtful content or information on your social media posts.
Making edits is not acceptable on platforms such as Facebook since your edit history can easily be viewed. Above all, do not share content that will call your eligibility into question.
There is an increasing global interest in immigration reforms and laws. Consequently, immigration officers, embassies, and security agencies have tightened their reins on requirements that foreigners must fulfill to gain entry into their country.
To err on the side of caution, it is pertinent that all conditions that might disqualify you be avoided at all costs