How the New Immigration Policy on Social Media History Can Especially Affect Musicians & Bands
Bands and musicians hoping to bring their music to the U.S. often have to jump through a number of hoops to get here. Even if they’ve had a visa before, and they want to apply for the same type of visa again, they must demonstrate their eligibility with every application as if they were applying for the first time.
At McEntee Law, when we file visa applications for bands, we submit hundreds of pages of carefully curated evidence. Meanwhile, bands must pay hundreds of dollars in government filing fees – and then there’s the waiting. On top of all the other logistics involved in planning a U.S. tour, the visa application process can definitely feel daunting.
Last week, the U.S. government added yet another obstacle for artists with approved visa applications which requires applicants to disclose all social media handles the applicants have ever used in the last five years prior to their approval for entry. This can feel incredibly invasive for individual applicants, but when dealing with multiple musicians and crew members for a U.S. tour, the potential issues can multiply tenfold.
Once an artist or band gets their visa status approved, they must complete an online application (Form DS-160) to request a visa interview at a U.S. embassy. Assuming they pass the interview, they can typically receive the visa stamp in their passport within a week which allows them to travel to the States on that status.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) used to limit theses requests for social media, email, and phone number histories to only those applicants who were identified as requiring extra scrutiny. This used to apply to those who had recently traveled to areas controlled by known terrorist groups. Per the DHS, these requests affected about 65,000 applicants annually.
Today, all applicants are required to disclose their social media histories and the DHS estimates that the policy will affect over 14 million people (and an/including an) untold number of musicians.
Here’s what bands and musicians need to know:
1. It is in your best interest to tell your attorney everything. An experienced immigration attorney is trained to help applicants navigate the immigration consequences of prior statements, visa denials, charges, etc.
2. The DS-160 form is designed to confirm the evidence you provide in your visa applications. Under the new policy, the U.S. government can (and very likely will) cross-check all of your social media against your application for consistency.
3. Remember that nothing is ever fully deleted from the Internet, especially if you’re in the public eye. Fans can screenshot your posts and mirror your videos onto YouTube. It will live forever – so it’s important to disclose everything from the outset.
4. The DS-160 asks for social media handles for some platforms that are no longer online, such as Vine, Google+, etc. Know that this content is often automatically copied onto other platforms.
5. Always think twice before you tweet or publish anything on personal substance use. This can make you inadmissible to the U.S.
6. If an officer asks you directly about something you posted online, it is in your best interest to answer their questions honestly but remember to limit your answer to the scope of the question. Never volunteer information that has not been requested.
7. Review your entire visa application before you go in for your interview. We tell our clients to print their entire case scan and bring it to the interview, just in case. Although you will not be able to reference it during the interview, you will be able to review it prior. Nevertheless, you should be prepared to answer questions about your immigration history and your plans in the U.S. off the top of your head.
8. Finally, keep calm and call your lawyer - this is why we’re here!