Changes to the process of obtaining a U.S. visa require certain applicants to list their social media accounts. Individuals seeking to obtain a visa may need to provide their online user names or profile handles when requested.
U.S. border control officials have the authority to review any information posted online to vet visa applicants, who currently number about 15 million individuals each year. Applicants requesting to visit the U.S. will need to comply with the social media review requests.
Social media contents may affect application approvals
The majority of social media users post personal information and pictures of themselves, their vacations and their families. They may also post opinions and criticisms. As reported by CNN, an official authorized by the Department of Homeland Security may review online content and photographs. The intent is to determine whether an individual poses a risk. If content posted online suggests that U.S. security faces a threat, an individual’s application may not result in an approval.
A review may cover a five-year history of online activity
U.S. officials may request to review an applicant’s history of social media usage for a period of time going back five years. While lifestyles, religions and viewpoints could change significantly over time, the contents posted to social media may remain on the internet.
Automated software programs can assist officials in their search for specific keywords or contents posted on social media platforms. Texts and pictures uploaded years ago, then forgotten and buried by newer information, may appear during the search. An official who reviews years-old forgotten content may incorrectly interpret its meaning and apply his or her own viewpoint. There is a possibility this could become a factor in determining whether an applicant poses a threat.
Obtaining a U.S. visa requires applicants to have a legitimate family, academic, sightseeing or business purpose to visit the U.S. An individual’s application must also disclose whether he or she plans on receiving medical treatment or touring specific regions. Although it may no longer be relevant, conflicting information posted online may result in a rejected visa application.