Social Media for Visa Applications


By: Brooke Girton

Now that authorities have made it common place to use social media accounts for the “greater good,” they are using them as a screening process for anything and everything they can think of. United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, recently issued memos on mandatory social media screening for visa applicants that have visited any regions that were flagged as ISIS-controlled. These memos provided detailed instructions for how customs agents were to further vet the applicants by requesting access to their social media accounts. Some of the orders were later retracted, however.

Although this type of screening could be considered very violating to many people, one immigration attorney claims that these tactics are rarely used, due to their labor intensive nature, and only on specially targeted individuals. But, does that make it any less violating to the unfortunate individual who happens to be chosen based on what some official deems is “suspicious”? If these screening processes become necessary for visa applicants, there should be checks and balances put into place so applicants cannot be turned down due to any personal lifestyle choices that may be apparent on their social media accounts.

Under the Obama administration, similar processes were proposed but they were optional to applicants. Social media and its privacy has continued to be an issue that the law has not caught up to. Officials continue to exploit this fact by using it for investigative purposes and setting precedents. In order to counteract these precedents, citizens need to stand up and say no. In this case, those who are being exploited are not citizens and therefore, have no voice.

Safety and security is a very important topic to focus on, especially with everything going on in the world today. The issue that many are grappling with though is: how far is too far? At what point are we punishing innocent refugees and immigrants because of what terrorists do? When we start looking over our shoulder at every turn, we have let them win.


Dent, S. (2017, March 23). US Ordered Social Media Checks For Some Visa Applicants. Retrieved from

Toor, A. (2017, March 23). US Ordered ‘Mandatory Social Media Check’ For Visa Applicants Who Visited ISIS Territory. Retrieved from



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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism