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Uncle Sam wants to know your FB ID Revised US Visa Forms To Ask Most Applicants To Furnish 5-Yr Social Media History

June 02, 2019 05:23 AM

COURTESY TOI JUNE 2

Uncle Sam wants to know your FB ID
Revised US Visa Forms To Ask Most Applicants To Furnish 5-Yr Social Media History
Lubna.Kably@timesgroup.com

Mumbai:

It is now official. Nearly a year after the plan was first mooted, most visa applicants, including tourists, headed to the United States will have to provide usernames of social media accounts that they have used during the past five years.


US consulate offices in India issued 8.72 lakh visas during the fiscal ended September 30, 2018. On a global scale, The New York Times estimates that 14.7 million people, annually, will be asked to submit their social media details.

“The requirement features on E-forms D-160 and D-260 filled by non-immigration and immigration visa applicants and used at US consulate offices. The forms have a drop down menu, requiring applicants to list the username or handle against the social media platforms, which they have used during the five years preceding the application date. However, passwords are not to be provided,” explains Emily Neumann, partner at immigration law firm Reddy & Neumann.

Social media platforms which are covered in the drop-down menu include Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube. The scope of the drop down menu is expected to be further extended. However, visa applicants do not have to list accounts designed for use by multiple users within a business organisation. The Department of State had published its intent to implement this policy in March last year.

Until this recent revision, only select visa applicants were asked to provide details of social media handles. “The development is part of the Trump administration’s ‘extreme vetting’ initiative which primarily is looking for anything that might render an applicant inadmissible, including terroristic tendencies,” Mitchell Wexler, California based partner at Fragomen, a global immigration law firm, told TOI.

Social media posts could result in additional questioning during the visa interview. “The outcome will be more delays and expansion of the consular power to deny visas that have been traditionally exempt from too many problems, such as H-4 and L-2 visas for derivative beneficiaries (spouses and dependent children of H-1B and L-1 visas holders). Already, consulates enjoy plenary powers in visa decisions. We cannot challenge visa denials, unless egregious and obvious illegality can be demonstrated. These questions combined with unfettered power are just a part of the invisible wall against lawful visitors,” Rajiv S Khanna, managing partner at Immigration.com told TOI.

New York-based immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta said, “This will not impact extension and change of status applications.” To illustrate, extension of the H-1B work visa or change in status from B1 (tourist visa) to a F1 (student visa) will not be impacted. “People’s views could be held against them even if they are consistent with free speech and expression,” Mehta said.

 

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