Do immigration officials look at applicant’s social media profiles?

Does the federal government look at people’s social media when deciding whether or not to give them a green card or visa?

The issue of social media has been a hot button topic the last few weeks. The reason for this is the husband and wife that shut up the government facility in San Bernardino California, a terrible tragedy, and members of Congress hauled people from the Immigration Service in front of them at a judiciary hearing last week to ask some questions about the fiancé visa, the spouse visa process and they wanted to know specifically does the federal government look at an applicant’s social media when deciding whether or not to give them a visa?

So we thought we’d shoot this video in order to talk about it. We’ve had clients from time to time come to see us and ask us about representing them and we’ve spent some time on social media not as their friend or anything we just gone and checked out their story and sometimes we’ve been alarmed at what they have on their Facebook. Case in point we once had a pair of brothers let’s call him John and Sam and John and Sam came to see us and they brought and with them and the story was that Sam was a US citizen and John was married to Anne. And so they were trying to hire us to help get a green card for John. But when we did our own quick check of social media specifically Facebook we figured out that in fact Sam, the US citizen, was already married to Anne and that this was a fake marriage and that they had decided to try to get a green card for the non-citizen brother John by running a fake immigration marriage through a USCIS. This is a lot of hard work on our part and we were glad that we were able to turn down the case because these people were wanting to engage in immigration fraud and we don’t want anything to do with that. So that’s what we do here at our office. But on a broader scale you need to know that there’s no doubt no matter what the government said at the congressional hearing, no matter their claims that they never look at social media that simply doesn’t happen. We’ve had situations arise at the Immigration Service where photos from Facebook, publicly available postings on Facebook have made their way into the immigration file we’ve had examining officers asked our clients about things that they’ve posted on Facebook usually it’s related to good moral character not necessarily terrorist activities. On the social media front usually they’re looking at whether or not the marriage is legitimate, whether or not the person applying for a green card is a good person and deserving of a green card, deserving of permanent residence status. So, the idea that USCIS is not looking at social media that might be some broadly stated unknown policy because immigration officers around the country regularly look at social media. They look throughout the Internet for information about the people that are applying for a benefit. So don’t just think that because USCIS officials said in Washington that they don’t check social media that they don’t in fact.

Another way that this can become an issue is when people come through customs. A lot of times custom officials will ask to look at your laptop, or ask to look at your cellphone and they have an issues related to posting social media, emails as well in which people have said way, way, way too much about what their plans are in the United States on social media. We’ve had people get pulled in the secondary scrutiny at customs. I’m not saying that they’re pulled out of the line to get into the United States because of their social media, what I’m saying is that things sometimes begin to unravel and customs officials have been known to ask to look at people’s cell phones and when they unlock the cell phone and get into Facebook they see plans that are inconsistent with the visa that the person has applied for.

For example, we were contacted recently about someone who is coming on a B1-B2 visit vis under that visa they’re not supposed to be working but when they came through customs the customs officials saw that they had posted on social media that they were coming to work as a nanny for their cousin and that they didn’t really have a plan to go back after six months. So, o don’t think that the USCIS government officials are not looking at social media it happens every day happens and it causes big problems for people.

So don’t believe the hype, they’re definitely looking at social media. So if you’re applying for an immigration benefit you want to make sure that your social media profile is locked up and you want to make sure that you’re not saying anything there that’s inconsistent with the benefit that you’re asking for. Don’t be trying to get a spouse visa if you are showing yourself partying out with other people that show you in a romantic situation with someone other than your spouse, these are all things that can trip you up.