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Foreign Nationals Should Use Caution in Posting Personal Information on Social Networking Sites

Posted on Monday, October 18, 2010

Are you an avid user of social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace? If so, you should consider using caution in posting personal information on these websites. A newly released USCIS Memo titled “Social Networking Sites and Their Importance to FDNS” indicates that the USCIS Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (“FDNS”) will visit these sites to verify information submitted by applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries.

The Memo says that social networking “provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.  Generally, people on these sites speak honestly in their network because all of their friends and family are interacting with them . . . This social networking gives FDNS an opportunity to browse these sites to see if petitioners and beneficiaries are in a valid relationship or are attempting to deceive CIS about their relationship.  Once a user posts online, they create a public record and timeline of their activities. In essence, using MySpace and other like sites is akin to doing an unannounced cyber “site-visit” on petitioners and beneficiaries.”

While the Memo suggests that FDNS will visit social networking sites primarily in marriage-based immigration cases to ensure the legitimacy of the marriage, it is conceivable (and likely) that this new practice of browsing social networking sites will be used in other immigration cases as well.  For example, it is possible that USCIS might look up an applicant’s postings on social networking sites to verify whether the applicant’s timeline of activities as listed on his or her application is accurate. Discrepancies could become an issue for the applicant.

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