US visas: social media posts and previous arrests could see UK tourists banned
Travelling to the United States requires applying for a visa in order to enter the country - with strict rules and regulations in place.
But now immigration lawyers are warning that even long-forgotten social media posts could see you being declined entry to the States. This is why.
New visa compliance rules
Tougher new visa compliance rules mean that those with alcohol or drug related offences from decades ago, and even social media posts referencing illegal activity, could restrict travellers from entering the US.
The visa rules dictate that applicants must disclose any offence, even if they did not necessarily lead to any cautions or criminal charges following an arrest. Although laws have not changed, the rules have become much stricter with previous convictions being looked at much more closely.
Social media scrutiny
It was recently announced that visitors to the US would have to divulge details of their social media accounts when applying for a visa.
The new visa application forms now list a number of popular social media platforms and require those applying to provide any account names they may have had over the past five years. Applicants also have the option to volunteer information about any social media accounts on platforms not listed on the form.
Visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers and email addresses, as well as their history of international travel and deportation status. Applicants are also asked if any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.
Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from these requirements.
The full tourist visa differs from the ESTA, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
The Visa Waiver programme allows Brits to travel to the US for 90 days without a visa.
The main difference between the ESTA and visa is that an ESTA can be obtained through an online form, but the US tourist visa must be obtained through an embassy or consulate.
It’s currently optional to enter social media details when applying for an ESTA.
Charlotte Slocombe, a partner at immigration law firm Fragomen, told The Sun, "When you apply for a visa, the Department of State also Googles you.
"[Anything suspicious] on your phone or laptop or social media immediately triggers more questioning, which can lead to admissions, which is the same as a conviction."
Travellers with criminal records
The US embassy said, “If you have ever been arrested, cautioned and/or convicted of an offense anywhere in the world, you are required to declare it when applying for a visa.
“In cases where an arrest resulted in a conviction, you may be permanently ineligible to receive a visa and will require a waiver ineligibility to travel to the United States.”