For Individuals Who Want To Come And Stay In The U.S.
Is USCIS Checking Your Social Media?
Will USCIS check out my social media? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States out of our offices in St. Louis, San Diego and Washington, DC. This year for the first time we’ve had clients getting ready to go to an interview, and they’ve been notified by Google that their YouTube channel was checked, by Facebook, that their Facebook account was checked, and Twitter, that their Twitter account has been checked. So this is really an important development in the battle or dance that we do with USCIS. What I mean by that is that if they are at a point now where they are checking people’s social media, not just the public facing social media, but also what’s going on behind the scenes, what’s going on in private accounts, that’s really a sea change.
I’m sure they’ve been doing that for years, but we’re seeing it more and more. We’re actually having clients receive copies of notices from these social media channels, in which they’re being told that they have had the federal government access their records and are presumably using them then in the immigration context. So this is a situation where a client had applied for citizenship and USCIS went out and subpoenaed all these social media accounts. And this isn’t just the one case that’s happened, we’ve seen it in several cases. So you need to keep that in mind.
On a broader note, you need to make sure that you understand stand that everything that you say or do on social media or on the internet is a trackable and is discoverable. So just because you might delete something from your Facebook page, doesn’t mean that the government couldn’t go back and get it. I don’t think they do that very often, but it is possible.
My mom used to always say, “Hey Jimmy, make sure you don’t ever do anything that you wouldn’t want to appear on the front page of the New York Times, or that you wouldn’t want read out against you in federal court.” And I think that is a good state of mind when thinking about social media now. We’ve had people delete social media accounts or delete particular posts before they file and I think that’s a good idea. Obviously, you can’t do anything illegal or you can’t do anything fraudulent, but I do think it’s good that if there are things on your social media pages that make you worried, that you deal with those before you file. If you leave those matters as public, we have known USCIS to do a simple search for you. And if you have a unique name, like my wife, [Amani 00:02:47] Hacking, or other names that are somewhat unusual, then that’s going to be easier to find on social media than people who have common names like John Smith or Mary Jones or things like that.
So you have to be really smart on social. Everything’s recorded, everything is kept, there is a database of everything that’s ever been said on the internet. It’s sort of spread out on many different platforms, but if USCIS and particularly the USCIS Fraud Unit wants to be able to find those things, you’re going to have them be found.
One time in our office, we found someone was not even really married to the person that they claimed they were married to. And we found that out during Facebook. Luckily that was before we filed our case, but that just goes to show you that if we can find it, just us at our little law firm, that means that with the full resources of the federal government, the USCIS is going to be able to get those records and put those records to you and make you try to explain why you posted certain things or what a particular post means.
So hopefully this makes sense. If you have things that you’re worried about on your social media, or if you have questions, you can give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can email us at [email protected] We have a Facebook group, it’s called Immigrant Home. We’d love to have you join it. We have thousands of people in there talking about the US immigration system every day. And then of course we have our YouTube channel that we update with regular videos. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel, and then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can find us live in the Facebook group and on YouTube answering as many of your immigration law related questions as possible. Thanks a lot and have a great day.