Can Social Media Impact My U.S. Immigration?

keyboard immigration law
keyboard immigration law

Should a person’s social media data lock them out of the U.S. immigration process ?

Is the U.S. Government Really Going to Collect Immigrants’ Social Media Data?

In recent news, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has received the green light from President Trump to move forward with a new policy. Specifically, the collecting of the social media handles of visa applicants dating back five years.  For further information see Buzzfeed’s full article here.

Part of this change in process will include a new new questionnaire form. The implementation date is scheduled for October 18, 2017.  The policy change is supposed to help the government determine whether immigrants qualify for certain immigration benefits.  From a fiscal viewpoint, it makes sense that government would want to verify the assets of applicants in order to prioritize benefits for those who truly need it.

However, Opponents to this new policy quickly point out that pilot programs that tested out the practice of examining social media accounts of immigrant applicants proved unsuccessful.  In fact, determining that an applicant did not qualify for immigrant benefits came from sources unrelated to social media.

What are Some of the Concerns due to this Social Media Data Gathering?

Discrimination could become an issue. Depending on the type of social media gathered from an applicant’s social media data, government agents could be screening an applicant’s based on religious and political views. Their screening based on one-off comments and pictures shared.  Government’s ability to ask applicants about their religious and political views is a longstanding tradition.

For example, a person in the past simply needed to state whether or not they supported a Communist regime.  However,  an applicant for a student-visa may face discriminatory scrutiny for his Facebook post critiquing his own government. This in turn resulting in problems for their application.

Consider a tech worker raised in a Muslim family, revealed in pictures with her father and mother. What if she did not share or practice her family’s faith, but due to her family’s religion she faced a harder review process?

These merely are examples of the questions and concerns of collecting social media data of immigrant applicants. It is without a doubt not all government agents reviewing this data will receive training and education in all the nuances of religions and cultures around the world. Therefore, personal biases could seep into the decision-making process.

Social media can be unreliable information and should not be used against a person immigrating to the U.S.

Other Attorneys’ Comments

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law raises a point on the reliability of social media. How many times have you seen a post from someone that’s not entirely representative or accurate of that person? Mr. Hernández states, “The fact that information gleaned from Facebook or Instagram or other social media networks might not be reliable doesn’t mean that it will preclude DHS from using it as a basis for excluding people from the United States.”

Adam Schwartz, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, points out that non-immigrants (U.S. citizens) may also be impacted. They may self-censor their social media posts and interactions. Why?  The fear of those acts being evidence against their immigrant loved ones.

Do You or Your Loved One Have Questions?

If you or a loved one have any questions about visa applications, do not hesitate to contact our firm for an initial consultation.  We can also discuss with you about what happens what a visa application is denied.  There are often options to overcome a visa denial.  However, certain other ineligibilities are permanent; this means you will always be denied due to some aspect of U.S. law.  Still, there are special circumstances in which applicants could apply for a waiver.

Adam R. Chang practices immigration law.  In the past, Adam worked with skilled immigrant professionals from across the country, including many Iraqi refugees, and helped them find work in their professional fields through resume development and job interview training.  When in law school, Adam volunteered to help green card holders apply for citizenship.  In his career, Adam has assisted many clients with employment-based immigration cases, including National Interest Waiver petitions.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains comments and opinions of potential impacts of policy changes and news items.  It does not constitute as legal advice to any particular person in any respect.  If the reader feels they have need of specific advice based on the information contained in this post, then they should seek the advice of  an attorney in their relevant jurisdiction.  Hew & Bordenave, LLLP expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.


Introduction to Adam R. Chang: Immigration Of-Counsel

Immigration law book and gavel

Immigration and the U.S.A.

immigrants usa flag

The USA is a multiethnic nation due to its diverse set of immigrants.









People come to the United States for a variety of reasons.  Young students often pursue increased opportunities by enrolling as a student at an American university.  Others long to be reunited with loved ones in their new home country. While, U.S. companies seek to employ the best talent they can find across the globe.

Whatever the reason, many immigrants and visa holders have stress from the ever-changing rules and regulations. They wade through legalese of immigration paperwork. This may be daunting even for those who are proficient in English. Therefore, it can be difficult to immigrate to the U.S.

However, we recognize the contributions immigrants have had on our country, especially both in Hawaii and California and in our own lives. From around the world, immigrants bring their ideas to start businesses, their culture influences our arts, outlooks, and foods, and their spirit adds to the American dream.

So it was an easy decision for Trejur and I to bring on an immigration attorney.  Whether it is trying to bring a skilled worker over for a new company or assisting an individual in navigating the application for citizenship, it was clear that we needed someone with passion and who also cared about the subject matter deeply.

Therefore, join the rest of the Hew & Bordenave team in welcoming our new of-counsel, Adam R. Chang.

Who is Adam?

Adam R. Chang

Adam R. Chang, Immigration Attorney.

Adam graduated from the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law. Adam is a published writer (see here and here), a vocal diversity proponent and an advocate for under-represented communities.  Adam spends as a Project Director for Social Change Consulting with various immigration and social justice nonprofits.  Before moving to San Francisco, Adam externed with Hawai`i Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna, and was a Human Rights Fellow with the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.  Additionally, Adam spent time serving on the Board for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai`i.


immigration paperwork

There is a lot of paperwork to fill out to immigrate to the U.S.









Given the current state of immigration in the United States you may have questions and concerns. It can be alarming to hear about new regulations or potential changes in the system. Therefore, if you do have questions on immigrating to the United States for you or a loved one, short or long-term visas, or citizenship, consider scheduling an initial consult with Adam. Let him provide the formalities for your immigration needs. You can contact us by clicking this link.

Mahalo and we look forward to assisting you with your immigration needs!