Oct 18, 2010
Government Checking Social Networking Sites for Immigration Fraud
We always have advised our clients to avoid anything the government could interpret as “fraud” in their immigration applications. For example, someone on an “H” visa or applying for permanent residence should not change job title or work location without first notifying immigration authorities. Currently, a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum advises the agency’s officers to troll social networking sites for immigration fraud:
Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of “friends” link to their pages and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don’t even know. This provides an excellent vantage point for [DHS] to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners suspected of fraudulent activities. Generally, people on these sites speak honestly in their network because all their friends and family are interacting with them via IM’s (Instant Messages), Blogs (Weblog journals), etc. This social networking gives [DHS] an opportunity to reveal fraud by browsing 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, he or she create a public record and timeline of his or her activities. In essence using MySpace and other like sites is akin to doing an unannounced cyber “site-visit” on a petitioners and beneficiaries.
A recent blog posting of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, “Big Brother is ‘Friending’ You,” puts it best:
So every time I receive a friend request am I to assume it is really an FDNS investigator looking for access to my Facebook page and personal information? What really happens in a cyber “site-visit”? We know from experience that incorrect information can easily be recorded into someone’s file as a result of live site visits. For example, investigators are quick to assume that an employee who may be absent on the day of the unannounced visit doesn’t really work for the petitioning company or presume fraud when they find the petitioning company’s facility vacant, not realizing it relocated weeks before the unannounced visit.