Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way we communicate with one another, and not just in the United States. In 2018, there were 2.27 billion monthly active Facebook users in 214 nations around the world.
Especially if you are an immigrant in the United States and you have friends and family members in other parts of the world, Twitter, Facebook, and the other popular social media platforms are convenient ways to stay in touch.
Social media sites offer users a number of benefits, but you have to be careful. As Las Vegas immigration attorneys, we know that law enforcement agencies and immigration authorities in the United States now comb through social media sites to investigate crimes and individuals – including those who are suspected of immigration fraud.
WHEN DID USCIS START MONITORING SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS?
Are the immigration authorities – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which are both under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – looking at your Facebook and Twitter accounts?
USCIS has been monitoring social media to investigate possible cases of immigration fraud since 2010. Since at least 2017, someone’s social media accounts can be taken into account by immigration authorities when that person’s immigration benefits are determined.
If you apply for a visa, a green card, a change of your immigration status, or the waiver of a previous decision by immigration authorities, it’s safe to presume that your social media accounts will be reviewed and considered by USCIS.
Also since 2017, the U.S. Department of State has asked all visa applicants to provide information regarding their social media accounts and social media use over the previous five years.
WHY IS USCIS MONITORING SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS?
Many people routinely post personal details, pictures, and videos on their social media pages, but if any of the material that you’ve posted contradicts any claim that you’ve made to the immigration authorities, you will probably be investigated for immigration fraud.
Terrorism is always a leading national concern, but investigations of immigration fraud – and particularly marriage fraud – are also a top priority for USCIS, and the agency will carefully comb through your social media accounts if you are suspected of immigration fraud.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), anyone who procures or seeks to procure any benefit under the INA by fraud or by willful misrepresentation of a material fact while applying for a visa is inadmissible to the U.S. and may be permanently barred from entering the country.
ARE YOU A K-1 VISA HOLDER SEEKING A GREEN CARD?
If you are in the U.S. with a K-1 visa and you seek a green card, you and your spouse will be investigated and interviewed by USCIS. Your social media accounts may be searched for evidence of marriage fraud. If a second interview is required, you’re probably under suspicion.
Sometimes, USCIS will find evidence on social media accounts that can create substantial doubt regarding marriage and whether or not the marriage is simply a scheme being perpetrated to obtain a green card.
Anyone who enters into a marriage in order to evade U.S. immigration laws may be prosecuted for marriage fraud. Anyone who is convicted of marriage fraud – and the law applies to both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens – can be sentenced to five years in prison and fined $250,000.
CAN’T YOU KEEP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS PRIVATE?
USCIS now routinely combs through the social media accounts of visa applicants and green card applicants looking for photographs, videos, comments, or any other item that might be considered evidence of marriage fraud or other types of immigration fraud.
You cannot presume that a social media platform’s privacy settings will keep USCIS or ICE from scrutinizing everything that you’ve posted to your account, and you can’t presume that deleting a post or canceling an account really makes that post or account disappear. It doesn’t.
The best strategy is simply to assume that anything you post online will be seen and examined by immigration authorities. Some immigration attorneys may even recommend that you refrain from social media use entirely while your visa or green card application is pending.
IS EVERY IMMIGRANT INVESTIGATED?
USCIS may not follow you, scrutinize your social media accounts, or demand additional interviews of every visa applicant or green card applicant, but it has the power to if there is any cause to suspect you. In the U.S., USCIS can even visit your home and interview your neighbors.
If you are under investigation by USCIS for marriage fraud or for some other immigration fraud, you must obtain the advice of an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney at once. A good immigration lawyer can advise you and if necessary provide legal representation on your behalf.
Typically on social media sites, individuals may exaggerate their successes or overly-dramatize their personal lives. That’s human nature, and it’s universal. We all have a tendency to exaggerate, but you can’t do that online if you’re applying for a visa or a green card.
If you use social media at all while you have a visa or green card application pending, what you post must be accurate and discreet. Any hint of fraud, or any hint that you may be involved with a crime or with an act of moral turpitude, will hurt your chances of visa or green card approval.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSULT A LAS VEGAS IMMIGRATION LAW FIRM?
It’s no secret that immigration law in the U.S. is complicated – and that most visa and green card applicants need help with the paperwork. Before you apply for a visa, a green card, a change of status, or a waiver, consult first with an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney.
Your attorney will complete or review the paperwork to ensure that there are no mistakes or misunderstandings that might trigger a fraud investigation by the immigration authorities.
The insights of a good immigration lawyer can be invaluable, but you must reach out, take the first step, and contact an immigration attorney before you seek a visa or green card – or as soon as you need help dealing with the immigration authorities. A good lawyer’s help is your right.