USCIS Rolls Out Personal Online Data Screening for Immigrants
There are several ways a person’s social media can impact on the other areas of their lives, from personal experiences, to career and even travel or visa. Some times last year, Harvard withdrew the offer of admission given to some students due to certain offending posts they made on their online personal profiles. In the same vein, there have been instances where people lost their jobs or destroyed their careers due to their online activities.
President Trump’s administration started with a series of executive orders seeking to keep the lid on immigration tight and prevent persons coming from countries that have been labelled likely terrorism zones. Local and international fight backs led to several political occurrences that loosened the tight hold a bit.
On the other hand, this did not eliminate the need for “extreme vetting” which is now being implemented in all U.S. Consulates and embassies. While the extreme vetting process has made obtaining a U.S. visa much more difficult, the most talked about aspect of it is the new personal online data screening.
The screening requires immigrants into the U.S. to disclose all social media usernames, email addresses, including mobile phone numbers used in the past five years preceding the application. This screening is done using the new Supplemental Questions form for visa applicants. Information relating to online handles and details of profiles used for sharing data online, including videos, images, Facebook status updates, and even blog posts must be entered into the supplemental questions form.
It is not yet clear which particular countries this new rule must apply to, nor which ones are exempted. On this, however, the U.S. State Department is of the opinion that the rule is to apply to all nationals applying for a U.S. visa (including a green card), especially those immigrants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
Some have interpreted this to mean nations who are close allies with the U.S. will be exempted from this rigorous and time consuming extreme vetting. It is however not a guarantee as plans are being put in place to include nationals from places like UK, Canada, Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, etc., in the personal online data screening process.
Before now, filling the supplemental questions form was on a voluntary basis, but now it is leaning more towards becoming mandatory before a visa application can be granted. Thus, an employer intending to put out an immigration labor advertising should consider this before hiring a foreign worker.
Attempting to inadequately complete the supplemental questions form will only delay approval of a visa. Moreover, the US consular officers have the right to request additional information from the applicant if they are not satisfied with the information previously provided. This information is used to “confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.”
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