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US visa applications now require social media disclosure

People in Florida with friends or family who are applying for visas to the United States may be concerned about updates to visa applications requiring additional social media disclosure. On May 31, 2019, Forms DS-160 and DS-260, used for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications, were updated to request a range of information about social media accounts. People applying for visas are being asked to provide all the names and handles they have used on various platforms in the last five years. The social media sites listed include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and sites popular in other areas of the world, like VKontakte and Sina Weibo.

People applying for visas are not being asked to provide their social media passwords. In addition, reports indicate that screening officials will not be able to bypass privacy settings in place on people's social media accounts when they begin the process. The Department of State claims that it will not use this information to discriminate against applicants on the basis of their political views, religion, race, sexual orientation or national origin. It also indicates that these platforms may be continually monitored after initial visa approval. The change applies only to people applying for visas and not those entering the country under the Visa Waiver Program.

In addition, the applications are also requesting more information about previous email addresses and telephone numbers as well as international travel in the five years before the visa application. People are also being asked about their family members, including whether they have allegedly been involved in terrorist activities.

Many individuals are very concerned about what these social media requirements may mean for their visa applications or those of their loved ones as well as how they can protect their privacy. An attorney who practices US immigration law can provide advice and guidance throughout the visa process and help people protect their rights.

Source: The National Law Review, "US Visa Applicants Now Required To Provide Social Media Identifiers," Benjamin Lau and David S. Rugendorf, June 7, 2019

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