#ThinkAgain (Part 2) How Social Media can harm your Immigration Case
It is no secret that applying for United States citizenship opens your life up to scrutiny by the government.
Regardless of whether you are applying for citizenship, asylum status, a visa, or your green card, it is crucial that you always keep in mind that the government is looking at every aspect of your life that it can get its hands on to be sure that you qualify. In other words, they are constantly checking any source they can find to verify the information you provide on your application. They want to verify your facts, and if you are lying, they want to catch you in that lie.
But what many people do not know is that the government can use your social media activity as a source of information. So if you are currently applying for citizenship, or plan to apply at any time in the future, you might want to be careful about what you post online—or stop using social media altogether. In this article, we will explore some of the pitfalls of using social media while your immigration case is pending.
Immigration Policy on Social Media
In September 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raised many eyebrows when it released a Federal Register Notice that indicated it would collect social media information on all people passing through the United States immigration system. The notice was not a new rule, it simply put into writing the practices the government had already been using for years. The US government has a long history of using any and all publicly available information when deciding who to allow into the country and who to deport.
Two years later, in September of 2019, the DHS published another notice detailing their use of social media in information collection for immigrants and foreign travelers. So now, DHS has questions on its forms that specifically ask applicants to disclose social media accounts that they have used in the past five years. The forms also ask for associated usernames, but not passwords for those accounts. But if you think that withholding your password will keep you safe, don’t be fooled too quickly.
How Can This Impact Your Case
DHS’s ability to scrutinize your social media accounts can have a direct impact on your case. Anything that you post that can be interpreted as contradicting your application answers in any way may be used to deny your application. In fact, anything that your friends post can be used as well. It seems nonsensical, but there are cases where people have been denied their visas or even been deported because of what a friend posted on Facebook. Even if you do not respond to your friend’s post, the very fact that you affiliate with someone that the government believes is in a gang or part of a terrorist group can get your application denied. So let’s look at what you can do to protect yourself.
Social Media General Best Practices
DHS is supposed to only look at the publicly avail
able information. In other words, they should not be able to see what you post privately and only to your friends. How much you trust that the government is not willing and able to see what you post privately is up to you. But we suggest the following actions to attempt to protect your accounts from government oversight.
Set your privacy settings to be as restrictive as possible, and never post anything publicly;
If your friends post anything public, do not comment or repost because the government can interpret that as approval of the message;
Do not accept friend requests from people you do not personally know;
Never, ever post anything, including “jokes” about terrorism, criminal activity, or any desire to harm the US;
Never comment or joke or like about deceiving the government;
Never post anything that could be construed as contradicting anything you reported in your immigration application;
Do not complain on social media about the US immigration services or policies, do not insult the process in any way, especially through the use of profanity;
Always avoid the use of profanity, threatening language, or aggressive language.
These steps are not foolproof by any means. They are only a guideline alerting you to what you must avoid. But please understand that even innocent posts can be misconstrued and used against you. Honestly, the best practice is to avoid social media entirely until your application process is complete. We know that this is a lot to ask. But in the end, it is the safest course of action. If you cannot resist, attempt to follow the restrictions outlined above for your own sake.
Social Media and Marriage-Related Applications
If you have applied for an immigration benefit based on marriage, you must be even more cautious about social media posts. There are an infinite number of ways that you can tank your approval by what you, your intended spouse, or even your friends post online. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
If you are on a platform that publicizes your “relationship status,” make sure that it is set to the appropriate setting.
Never post anything that might call your relationship into question. Posts that are flirty or that display romantic encounters or feelings of any kind for anyone other than your intended spouse can really destroy your chances of getting citizenship based on marriage. If officials see anything that indicates your relationship is not true, they can deny your application.
Do not use dating apps of any kind while your status is pending. This can and will be tracked and can also destroy your chances of attaining citizenship.
If you do post on social media, making positive and frequent posts regarding your relationship is beneficial. If you are public about every other aspect of your life, including past relationships, Immigration can question the lack of social media post to question your relationship.
The trouble here is that you may be held accountable for what others post as well. For instance, if you are out one night your friend may post photos that make it appear as if you were getting flirty with someone besides your future spouse. The unfortunate reality is that posts like this can harm you as well.
WE CAN HELP
The experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at The Jarbath Peña Law Group know immigration law. We are well-versed in the ins and outs of applying for and getting the immigration status you desire.
We are here to help you navigate the often overwhelming process of immigration in the US. We can counsel you on all aspects of this process, including your best course of action regarding your use of social media. So do not delay!
You can set up your free initial consultation today by calling 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form. We look forward to serving you!