Immigration Wants to be Your Friend

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Recently U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a memo to its immigration officers explaining how to do “unannounced cyber site-visits” on petitioners and beneficiaries of applications filed with the agency. That’s right, Immigration wants to be Your Friend! Now Immigration intends to look at your social network to check up on you, and possibly use what they find against you in an effort to deny your application.

The memo advises immigration officers on how to set up profiles on social networking sites (e.g.. Facebook, Myspace, Hi5, Buzznet, etc.), and search for petitioner and beneficiaries on cases they are reviewing. This virtual visit, as detailed by USCIS, “provides an excellent vantage point for [immigration fraud investigators] to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.” You also need to understand that USCIS supposes that every petition presented to them is fraudulent, so USCIS will be doing their “research” on many different types cases.

Clearly, immigration applicants should use extreme caution (and common-sense) when setting up a profile on any social-networking site. Here are a few guidelines;

  • Don’t make your social page public;
  • Don’t accept requests from people you do not know;
  • Don’t put yours or your spouse’s personal information on social networking sites; and
  • Don’t address your personal, relationship issues, in the world of social media.

Immigration Officers have free reign to ask (almost) any question to a petitioner or a beneficiary at an interview. Adjudicators can come to your house and check on the “bona fides” of your relationship. Now adjudicators will also “follow” you on-line; but, do you really want to be their “friend”?

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Charles Kuck

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Comments 0

  1. The contents of the 2008 USCIS leaked memo set an alarming precedent for the methods that FDNS will use to detect immigration fraud. By connecting social media and immigration fraud, USCIS – and more specifically, FDNS – is losing credibility in my eyes. FDNS officers will have to take the information posted on a US visa applicant's social networking webpage as truth in order to use the information as evidence in an immigration fraud case. The reality is there is no way to prove what people write on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking site. A person can make an entirely false persona for themselves and never think of the consequences. The memo encourages immigration officers to construct presumably credible cases around unverifiable information. Visa applicants who currently use social media to keep in touch with their families and friends should be extremely careful, because anything they write could be interpreted in an unintended way. It is also crucial for applicants to tighten their privacy settings on social networking sites. I am hoping that this memo will not bear much weight on FDNS investigations; however, it will be difficult to determine how frequently this method is used and how much significance is given to it. For now, we should all be very selective about who we call our "friends".

  2. The contents of the 2008 USCIS leaked memo set an alarming precedent for the methods that FDNS will use to detect immigration fraud. By connecting social media and immigration fraud, USCIS – and more specifically, FDNS – is losing credibility in my eyes. FDNS officers will have to take the information posted on a US visa applicant's social networking webpage as truth in order to use the information as evidence in an immigration fraud case. The reality is there is no way to prove what people write on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking site. A person can make an entirely false persona for themselves and never think of the consequences. The memo encourages immigration officers to construct presumably credible cases around unverifiable information. Visa applicants who currently use social media to keep in touch with their families and friends should be extremely careful, because anything they write could be interpreted in an unintended way. It is also crucial for applicants to tighten their privacy settings on social networking sites. I am hoping that this memo will not bear much weight on FDNS investigations; however, it will be difficult to determine how frequently this method is used and how much significance is given to it. For now, we should all be very selective about who we call our "friends".

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