Social media and US visa applicants

SA panahon ngayon ng pandemic at dahil sa madaming lockdown order sa buong mundo, marami ang nagtatrabaho mula sa bahay o WFH. Marami rin ang bumabaling sa social media upang magbahagi ng impormasyon, balita at kanilang mga damdamin. Dapat malaman ng U.S. visa applicants na sila ay kailangang mag-submit ng impormasyon tungkol sa social media accounts na kanilang kasalukuyang ginagamit, pati na rin yung social media accounts na ginamit nila noong nakaraang 5 taon. Ito ay alinsunod sa U.S. Department of State (DOS) policy na naging epektibo noong Mayo 31, 2019.

Ayon sa DOS, kailangan nila ang social media identifiers upang madetermina kung ang visa applicants para sa immigrant at non-immigrant visas ay papasa sa mga pamantayan para mabigyan ng visa. Ang social media identifiers din ay makakatulong upang makilatis ng DOS kung may fraud o panloloko, panlilinlang at pagsisinungaling ang visa applicant, at kung ang visa applicant ay may potensyal na pagbabanta sa seguridad ng U.S. Maliban dito, ayon sa DOS, ang social media information ay magpapabuti ng screening process upang maprotektahan ang mga U.S. citizen, habang sinusuportahan ang legitimate travel sa U.S.

Ang DOS ay dati nang humihingi ng contact information, travel history, family member information, addresses at work history mula sa visa applicants. Ayon sa DOS, ang pagkuha at pagkolekta ng social media identifiers at information ay magpapalakas ng kanilang vetting process ng U.S. visa applicants.

Sinasakop ng social media identifier ang lahat ng pangalan at account sa social media platforms tulad ng Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, Tumblr and Youtube. Ito ay magbibigay sa DOS ng access sa personal data na karaniwang ibinabahagi sa social media. Kasama na dito ang religious at political affiliations, milestones, contacts, associations, habits, preferences, at sentiments. Dahil dito, ang mga post sa social media ay maaaring bigyan ng interpretayson, suriin at i-monitor ng U.S. government. Subalit, kung hindi titignan ang kontexto ng online posting, maaari hindi ito maunawaan at mabigyan ng maling interpretasyon.

Habang imposible na tignan at suriin ng DOS ang lahat ng social media accounts ng lahat ng visa applicants, maaaring ang makikitang social media posts ay humantong sa denial ng visa kung may mga inconsistency sa online posts at visa application. Halimbawa, ang isang B2 tourist visa applicant na nagpost sa Facebook na kanyang “pangarap ang mag-aral at tumira sa U.S.” ay maaaring hindi maaprubahan ng tourist visa.

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During this pandemic and due to lockdown orders all over the world, a lot of people are working from home and turning to social media to share information, news and sentiments. Visa applicants to the U.S. should be aware that they are required to submit any information about social media accounts they are using and those that they have used in the past five years under U.S. Department of State (DOS) policy, which became effective on May 31, 2019.

According to the DOS, it needs social media identifiers to determine whether immigrant visa applicants and non-immigrant visa applicants meet the standards for getting a visa, to identify fraud and misrepresentations that disguise potential threats. Furthermore, according to DOS, this will improve screening process to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the U.S.

DOS already previously requests and obtains certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses and work history from visa applicants. Per DOS, collecting social media identifiers and information will strengthen their process for vetting the applicants and confirming their identity.

Social media identifier is defined by DOS as including any name used on social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, Tumblr at Youtube. This would give DOS access to personal data commonly shared in social media, including religious and political affiliations, milestones, contacts, associations, habits, preferences, and sentiments. Thus, what one says online can be interpreted, analyzed and monitored by U.S. government. However, absent a review of the context in which the posts are made, the online posts can be misunderstood and misinterpreted.

While it may be impossible for DOS to look into all social media accounts of all visa applicants, a screening of said social media posts may lead to denial of U.S. visa if there are inconsistencies between the visa applicant’s posts and their application. For example, a B2 tourist visa applicant’s posts on Facebook that it is his “dream to study and live in the U.S.” may be denied the tourist visa.

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ATTY. RHEA SAMSON is the principal of SAMSON LAW FIRM, P.C. She has been a member of the State Bar of California for over 15 years and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for over 20 years. Atty. Samson received her Legal Management degree from the Ateneo de Manila University and her Juris Doctor degree from the Ateneo Law School. She was a Professor for over 10 years, teaching Obligations and Contracts, Labor Laws and Social Legislation and Taxation Law. Atty Samson is the author of The Law on Obligations and Contracts (2016), Working with Labor Laws-Revised Edition (2014) and Working with Labor Laws (2005).

SAMSON LAW FIRM, P.C., 3580 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1710, Los Angeles, CA 90010; Phone: (213) 274-4561; Email: info@samsonlawfirmpc.com.

Atty. Rhea Samson
Atty. Rhea Samson

ATTY. RHEA SAMSON is the principal of SAMSON LAW FIRM, PC. She has been a member of the State Bar of California for over 15 years and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for over 20 years. Atty. Samson received her Legal Management degree from the Ateneo de Manila University and her Juris Doctor degree from the Ateneo Law School. She was a Professor for over 10 years, teaching Obligations and Contracts, Labor Laws and Social Legislation and Taxation Law. Atty. Samson is the author of The Law on Obligations and Contracts (2016), Working with Labor Laws-Revised Edition (2014) and Working with Labor Laws (2005). Visit our office at SAMSON LAW FIRM, P.C., 3580 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1710, Los Angeles, CA 90010; Phone: (213) 381-5710; Email: info@samsonlawfirmpc.com.

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