In May 2019, the U.S. Department of State updated the DS160 and DS260 forms to include a question asking for the applicant’s last 5 years of social media information. The DS160 form is an electronic form used for U.S. nonimmigrant visa application, the DS260 form is used for immigrant visa applications. The forms collect the necessary information from the applicant including personal, address, family, travel, security, and more. For more information about the social media platforms that are required to be disclosed, please click here.

The State Department have stated that the social media information will be used to validate the applicant’s identity, they will check the information on your social media to check if the applicant is eligible for visas, if the applicant is associated with terrorist activities or will threat the U.S. in some way. Social media information for diplomatic and official visa applicants will not be asked.

Currently, a lawsuit filed by two US based documentary film organizations is challenging the US State Department and the Department of Homeland Security’s requirement for visa applicants to disclose their social media information. The lawsuit is claiming that the requirement to disclose social media information along with the retention of dissemination policies, violates protected speech. The documentary film groups point to how many people use “pseudonymous” or burner social media accounts so that they can speak out anonymously on controversial issues to avoid reprisal. But under the US’s new visa rules, applicants technically need to supply these same social media handles or risk facing a visa denial if US immigration officers catch any inaccuracies in their online activities.

At this time, neither the US State Department nor the Department of Homeland Security have commented on the legal challenge and social media information will continue to be collected unless the challenge is successful. More information will be provided as the case progresses.

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