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Beginning May 31, 2019, the U.S. State Department is requiring all visa applicants to disclose their social media information, including usernames and handles for major social media websites and applications.

Previously, only a small percentage of visa applicants were required to disclose this information, including people who had traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. The new rule requires virtually all immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants to comply.

What You Need to Know about This New Requirement

An estimate from TIME magazine states that the number of affected visa applicants will increase from 65,000 to 15 million annually. Because of the massive increase in the number of visa applicants who will be required to provide social media information, it’s important to understand the implications of this new requirement, which include:

· It’s unclear how the government will use the information—Although the U.S. State Department now requires social media account names and handles from visa applicants, it hasn’t explained how it will use the information and how it will affect its application review processes.

· The requirement has roots in a 2017 executive order—President Trump issued an executive order in March 2017 that required multiple governmental agencies to develop new “screening and vetting standards and procedures” for all U.S. immigration programs. In addition, the U.S. State Department announced its intention to screen social media accounts in March 2018.

· Forgotten accounts and similar account names may present problems—Applicants who forget the usernames or handles of accounts they used years ago may experience roadblocks during their application processes. In addition, they may be unfairly denied if their usernames or handles closely resemble those used by suspected terrorists.

· Postings, statements, and messages may be misinterpreted—It can be difficult to ascertain the meaning and context behind online posts, especially when they’re several years old and may be posted in a different language. This new requirement opens the door for millions of social media accounts and posts to be misinterpreted, resulting in denied or delayed applications.

It’s also unknown how the government will access relevant data, especially for dormant or previously used social media accounts that have been deleted or deactivated by users.

Got Questions? We’re Here to Help.

The visa and overall immigration application processes have become stricter and more detailed in recent years. It’s important to have an experienced immigration lawyer on your side while navigating these complex systems.

At Jennings Immigration Law Office, it’s our goal to make your life easier. From explaining new requirements to making sure your application is accurate, complete, and up to date, we’re here to help. Contact us today for U.S. Visa help.