How Social Media Impacts Your Immigration Case
Social media routinely trips people up in all sorts of cases, from job hunts to criminal cases. Immigration cases are absolutely no exception.
You can rest assured that immigration officials absolutely do check social media accounts. Here’s what you need to know.
The USCIS Has a Social Media Policy
Here’s what USCIS has to say.
“USCIS is not currently conducting proactive monitoring of social media. Any search of open source or social media information is in connection with an individual’s specific request for immigration benefits and is part of our adjudication process.” –USCIS.gov
Read that very carefully. They are absolutely saying they will pull your social media accounts as soon as you apply for immigration benefits of any kind. An immigration benefit is any type of visa that you may be seeking, from a green card to a travel visa.
While the White House has rejected DHS’s proposal to collect social media data right on travel and immigration forms, you can be certain that your accounts probably aren’t that hard to find.
What is the government looking for?
The government is first and foremost looking for discrepancies between your official story to them and what you’ve posted on your account. This could include:
- Indications that you’re actually single when you’ve claimed to be married.
- Indications that you’re married to someone other than the person you are claiming to be married to.
- Indications that the purpose you’ve claimed for your visa does not match what you intend to do when you are actually inside of the United States.
- Indications that you do not demonstrate “good moral character.” This can include marijuana use, even if it is legal in the state where you live or intend to live.
- Politically critical posts that might indicate you’re a danger to the United States (or even ones which offend the USCIS officer, ensuring they scrutinize your application even harder).
Keep in mind that both things you post and things you don’t post can be used against you. If you’re using an account for personal and not purely professional reasons and never once post a picture of your significant other you can’t blame officials for being suspicious.
Will making your account private help you?
For one thing there are too many ways the government can get around a private page.
First, people may screen shot your posts and pass them on to the government. Not everyone who can get to your account is necessary your friend.
Accounts can also be hacked, and while the government will never admit to hacking your account it’s probably a bad idea to risk it.
Finally, in certain cases the government can certainly subpoena your records if they really want them.
However, if you delete some problematic posts before you apply for a visa those deletions can be helpful. While nothing is ever truly, 100% gone from the Internet, doing so can also make officials work a lot harder to find them. They may miss them if they’re just making a cursory check and if they don’t have any reason to dig deeper.
Should you stop posting altogether?
Avoiding social media altogether isn’t the answer here. In some cases, it can even provide positive evidence that you’re telling the truth, with is exactly what we want. This is especially true in asylum and marriage cases.
Instead, the answer is to be very thoughtful about what you post, asking yourself whether anything you put on the account helps or hurts your case. Make sure your account is congruent with the story you’ve given or plan to give to immigration officials. That’s not to say that we’re encouraging you to lie or to concoct evidence, we’re just aware that there are times when people present themselves on social media one way while living a different truth, such as LGTBQ+ individuals who might want to marry a US Citizen but who don’t necessarily want their extended family back home to know.
Unfortunately, when you try to immigrate you’re asking a government to make your life an open book. It will be time to get very honest with everyone in your life, because you have no choice but to be honest with immigration officials.
Realizing Your Dreams for a New Life in the United States