Travelling to the USA? How to prepare for the social media question on ESTA and Visa applications

Written by James on November 12, 2021

Image of a passport, plane and US dollars

After being locked down for almost two whole years, international travel is finally starting to open up around the world. With the news that the USA is ending its restrictions on travellers coming from Europe, many people are rejoicing in the excitement of being able to plan a trip to New York, Disneyland, or anywhere else in the USA that has been inaccessible since early last year.

Whether you are coming from Europe or not, planning a trip to the USA comes with the admin of applying for either a visa or, more commonly for tourists, an ESTA. As of 2020, the US ESTA and Visa applications now ask applicants to list their social media accounts as factors affecting their ability to qualify.

As the world opens up, prepare yourself for the new realities of international travel. It is likely that more and more countries may start asking for your social media accounts, so it is more important than ever to take control of your online identity.

What is asked for on ESTA and Visa applications?

In a similar way to a Visa, the purpose of the ESTA Program is to gather personal information on tourists entering the US in a bid to reduce the risk of crime or terrorism. The application will ask for your primary personal information and details or your upcoming trip to help Customs and Border Protection determine who should be granted or denied access into the country.

Up until 2020 social media accounts weren’t on the list of requested personal information, but that has now changed. Both the ESTA and Visa application now asks for the social network usernames you have used on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram in the last five years. There is also an option to choose “I do not have an online presence,” though it is important to remember that honesty is always the best approach when it comes to official immigration documentation.

What will Customs and Border Protection do with my social media information?

The point behind asking for social media information from ESTA and Visa applicants is to broaden the information base on visitors to the USA in abid to reduce the risk of crime and terrorism. This means that there is nothing to worry about, assuming you have nothing to hide.

Customs officials will only be able to see your public profiles, unless they seek specific permission from the social network (very unlikely). Instead, the social media information you provide will mainly be used to verify the other information on your application. In fact, ESTA and Visa applications with included social media identification are generally processed faster than ones without.

As long as your social media profiles don’t promote violence, terrorism, crime, or any similar topic, you are not likely to get rejected for an ESTA or Visa. However, it is always a good idea to be prepared for this type of formal governmental check. Take this as an opportunity to clean up your social media, and take control of your online presence.

How to prepare for the social media questions on the application?

The social media preparation needed to apply for a US ESTA or Visa can generally be considered good internet practice, anyway. Now is a good time to look at your online profiles with a critical eye, and consider the ways that Customs officials could interpret them. This self-evaluation will inevitably help you out in your career, education and personal life, too.

Review your Privacy Settings

While you may think that you know whether each of your social media profiles is private or not, it’s important to consider that these online platforms are constantly changing. With new content types, inter-platform linking, and updated policies, it is always worth assessing each account individually.

When in doubt about what you want to share on the internet, always err on the side of privacy.

Review and clean up old Photos and Posts

If the thought of a Customs officer examining your social media gives you the scaries, it could be time to clean up some of your content. Social media is such a big part of our modern lives that there are likely to be posts from years ago that you have totally forgotten about.

While it is very unlikely that anything on your social media accounts could lead to an ESTA or Visa application being denied, it is always better to be safe. Social media is now part of our identity in the eyes of governments worldwide, so it is important to review your profiles to reflect this. This is easier said than done, however, so now is a good time to take advantage of online cleanup tools to help you prep for a social media check.

In advance of an impending trip to the USA, you can save time and be more thorough with your social media self-check by taking advantage of modern, advanced online tools. Now is the time to take advantage of a social media cleanup tool such as yourself.online

We're here to help you review your social media

yourself.online allows you to quickly and effortlessly review years of social media content on all the platforms requested on the application (and then some!). A sophisticated algorithm scans your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok and flags any potentially damaging content, including things like alcohol, drugs, profanity, illegal activity or nudity. If you don’t want border officials seeing videos of you partying on spring break years ago, yourself.online can easily help you clean up your profiles.

Rather than blanket-deleting any flagged content, you are then able to decide whether you’d like to keep or delete any offending content, all from an intuitive online dashboard. The goal is not to erase memories or rid yourself from social media sites, rather to take control of your online presence. yourself.online allows you to take an impartial look at your social media imprint, and prepare you for any official checks. Click here to sign up for a free scan of your social media accounts today.