Visa-Holders Entering the U.S. May Be Required to Allow Immigration Officials to Inspect Their Social Media

It might be time to delete those drunk selfies, and not for the usual reasons.

Following the far-reaching and controversial Executive Order signed by President Trump on Friday, White House Policy Director Stephen Miller has been in discussions with State Department and Customs and Border Protection officials about the possibility of “asking” foreign visitors to reveal all websites and social media sites they visit and to share their cell phone contacts. If a visitor declined to turn over this information, they could be denied admission to the United States.

Constitutional challenges to this proposed policy are almost guaranteed to face stiff obstacles. Civil liberties enshrined in the US Constitution – for example, the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure – don’t apply at any port of entry. Also inapplicable is the right to counsel contained in the Sixth Amendment, which is why attorneys typically are not allowed to represent individuals seeking admission to the U.S.

There are a few steps you can take that may help you avoid delays when you enter the U.S. First, delete your phone’s browser history. Second, be selective or careful about who you keep in your contacts list. I’ve had clients seeking entry at the U.S./Canada land border who have had their phone taken from them by an immigration officer, who began calling names in the contacts list to essentially gather facts that challenged my client’s statements about the purpose of her visit to the U.S. Finally, if you are traveling with sensitive documents, such as a birth certificate or divorce documents, you may want to consider having them shipped to the U.S. instead of packing them in your luggage.

It is unknown at this time whether the executive order will be expanded to citizens of other countries, so even if you’re not from one of the seven countries identified in the original order, you should seriously consider following the steps above.

If you have any questions, or if you’re a non-citizen who is uncertain about future travel abroad, please give us a call at (206) 578-6963 or email us at info@danielsmithlawoffice.com. It’s our honor to be a resource to you in this uncertain time.


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