DOS Adds Social Media Questions for Visa Applicants



On May 31, 2019, the Department of State (DOS) updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application forms to include a request for social media identifiers and other additional information from the majority of U.S. visa applicants [PDF version]. We discussed the previously issued Federal Register notices proposing the new information collections in a 2018 blog post [see blog]. The policy changes stem from a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Donald Trump in March 2017, which we also discuss on site [see blog].

In this article, we will examine an FAQ document issued by the DOS on June 4, 2019, about the new social media identifier questions in the Forms DS-160 and DS-260 [PDF version]. We will also examine the original Federal Register notices published on March 30, 2018, at 83 FR 13806-13807 (immigrant visa applications) [PDF version] and 83 FR 13807-13808 (nonimmigrant visa applications) [PDF version].

To learn about related issues, please see our website's full section on Consular Processing [see category].

Effective Date and Affected Forms

The DOS published updated versions of the Form DS-160 (online nonimmigrant visa application), Form DS-156 (paper back-up version of the DS-160), and the Form DS-260 (online immigrant visa application) on May 31, 2019. The new versions of the forms include the new questions about social media handles and identifiers.

Defining a Social Media Handle or Identifier

The FAQ defines “[a] social media 'handle' or 'identifier' is any name used by the individual on social media platforms including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.” The Forms DS-160 (and DS-156) and DS-260 include a list of social media networks for which social media handles and identifiers are requested by the DOS. Thus, applicants should carefully survey the list of social media networks on the applicable form.

What Information is Being Requested Regarding Social Media Handles and Identifiers?

The two Federal Register notices explained that the question regarding social media identifiers “lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifiers used … during the five years preceding the date of the application.”

The FAQ makes clear that “[a]pplicants must provide all identifiers used for all listed platforms.” This means that if an applicant has multiple handles or identifiers for a single listed social media platform, he or she must list all such handles or identifiers from the previous five-year period — in accordance with the form instructions.

It is important to add that the DOS is not requesting social media passwords. The FAQ states that it is “looking solely for social media identifiers.”

Visa applicants who have not used any of the listed social media accounts within the previous five years will still have to answer the questions about social media handles and identifiers, but may respond with “None.” Applicants who do not currently use any of the platforms must still list any handles and identifiers if they have used any of the listed platforms within the previous five years (e.g., an applicant for a visa in June 2019 who had a Facebook account until June 2016 — before deleting it — would have to list his or her handle(s) or identifier(s) from that deleted account from June 2014-June 2016). An applicant who has not used any of the social media platforms and who truthfully answers the questions “will not be refused on the basis of failing to provide a social media identifier.” However, “[f]ailure to provide accurate and truthful responses on a visa application or during a visa interview may result in denial of the visa by a consular officer.”

Other New Information Requests

As we detailed on our post on the Federal Register notices in 2018, the DOS is also requesting additional information from most applicants beyond social media handles and social media identifiers. The other information requests are as follows:

Five years of previously used telephone numbers;
Five years of previously used email addresses;
Five years of international travel;
All prior immigration violations; and
Whether specified family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

Who Is Affected by the Change?

All nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for visas abroad with the DOS will have to answer the social media handle or identifier questions except for applicants applying for visas in the following categories:

C3 (except attendants, servants, or personal employees of accredited officials)

Since participants in the Visa Waiver Program are by definition not applying for visas, they are also unaffected by the changes to the Forms DS-160 and DS-156. Applicants for B1 and B2 nonimmigrant visitor visas, however, are affected by the new rules.


The DOS has implemented its social media vetting questions, in addition to several other new information collections questions, just over one year after they were proposed and two years after President Trump's directives to the DOS and several other Federal agencies. Regarding social media, the questions require visa applicants seeking visas abroad to list all social media handles and identifiers from specified social media platforms from the five years immediately preceding the nonimmigrant or immigrant visa application. It is just as important for applicants to be truthful in answering these questions as it is for them to be truthful in completing the entire Form DS-160 or Form DS-260.

The DOS FAQ indicates that the questions “will be used for identity resolution and to determine whether the applicant is eligible for a U.S. visa under U.S. law.” The DOS states that the information gleaned from the applicant's questions will not be used for other purposes.

Applicants with questions about the Form DS-160 or Form DS-260 instructions, including regarding social media or any of the other new questions, should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance.