#1: Be careful what you read.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have provided an invaluable service by helping us stay connected with the people we care about. This is especially important for the immigrant community, who encounter a lot of change when venturing into a new country with a new language, new culture and customs, and new opportunities. You know that the ability to maintain communications with your family and friends back home will be an important anchor for you as you adjust to your new life.
There is a lot of talk about the dangers of social media. The potential for misinformation to reach and influence a person has risen dramatically. While this is something that everyone should be wary of, the immigrant community should be especially cautious. Put simply, any information you receive should be cross-checked and verified. For example, suggestions that there are faster or simpler ways to navigate the immigration process should always be compared to what official government agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS), publish on their own websites. Preferably, you should obtain competent legal advice from a certified immigration law firm as well. Often those novel ways of supposedly speeding up the system are simply illegal and can hurt your chances of successfully receiving a green card.
The U.S. Department of State has published a pamphlet designed to raise awareness of how to protect yourself and what to do if you believe you are a victim of misinformation that leads to abuse.
#2: Be careful what you post.
In 2017, the Trump administration’s DHS published in the Federal Register their intention to scrutinize the social media activity of all visa applicants. This was an expansion of their “extreme vetting” policy toward foreign nationals applying for visas from countries considered to be threats to national security. With this new rule, the DHS included, on many of their forms, the request for the usernames or online aliases of all of the social media accounts the applicant has used in the previous five years. Failure to disclose that information would be considered immigration fraud and would likely lead to a denial of entry or rejection of the application. Although many people argued that this was an invasion of the individual’s privacy, the government counter-argued that they were not asking for passwords but only for publicly available information.
Of course, access to the applicant’s social media presence also permitted the immigration authorities to discover other information which they thought would assist their application processing. For instance, if an applicant was seeking an H-1B, for a professional engineering position, yet their social media accounts all publicize experience as a chef with a desire for the culinary arts, USCIS may consider this application a sham. Another example would be posts or images of the applicant using illegal drugs, which would automatically result in a denial of entry. Certainly, anything that gave even a hint that the applicant engaged in or planned to engage in criminal activity would raise red flags and likely lead to rejection.
If you are planning to apply for an immigrant visa or are in the midst of that application process, you must be aware of the ways the government uses your online profiles. Be very careful with what you post about yourself. If your application is based on a relationship (e.g., marriage or fiancee), be sure that your profile’s relationship status is up-to-date. If your application is based on employment, make sure that there is nothing that makes it appear that you are employed by a company other than what your application says. Absolutely do not post comments – even if you are just joking – that indicate that you were involved in any criminal activity, drug use, or sedition. The fact is, even writing complaints about the U.S. government can prove problematic to you later.
Not only must you be careful about your own profiles, but you also need to be aware of what your online “friends” are posting. It can reflect on you. For that reason alone, you should not accept friend requests from anyone you do not know personally. If a friend should post something that looks like criminal behavior, especially if it is a threat against the United States or the American people, you should unfriend them immediately. And you should make sure that your tag settings are set so that others cannot tag you in photos or videos of anything that looks suspicious.
Let us guide you.
Using social media while in the immigration process can be very challenging. You need someone to protect you from misinformation that could possibly lead to your application’s denial or, worse, to your own physical harm. You also need someone to help you understand how your online profiles may be helping or hurting your case. Our experienced immigration attorneys at Philip Levin & Associates are ready and able to help you through your process.
If you believe you are the victim of online abuse, if you suspect the government is misrepresenting your social media profile, or if you have any other concerns about your social media use during your immigration process, contact us today. Let us put our experience to work for you.