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Is your new Facebook friend a USCIS officer?

Some USCIS officers are very interested in your life. If they want to know about you, they have lots of resources to help them find out. Most of these resources are electronic: to send investigators to your home or work normally requires the cooperation of another DHS agency U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, without little effort or anyone’s help the officer interviewing you should have access to essentially all of your immigration file, your record in immigration, customs and FBI criminal record databases. With just a little effort, your file can be referred to USCIS’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) for much more thorough research. DHS is the biggest subscriber to online services that aggregate the information found in the big 3 credit reporting services and public records (like marriage, divorce, and death records, car registrations, lawsuits, liens and real estate transactions) nationwide. The services contain a vast amount of information about you, and they can be the starting point for even more far-reaching investigations.

And USCIS knows all about Facebook, MySpace, Orkut and other online sites, as this FDNS memo recently released in response to a Freedom of Information request by a privacy right group shows. “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 FDNS to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities.” (You can see the memo here.) So that friend request from someone you don’t quite recognize may be from a USCIS examiner.

Remember what your friends and your mother told you about being careful about what you post online. Hold those narcissistic tendencies to share white lies, exaggerated feelings about disputes with your spouse or partner, wild or unfaithful conduct on vacation, etc. in check.

Don’t underestimate what Immigration knows about you. If you and your spouse separated but worked things out, be ready to prove it, not to hide it. (This advice is even truer if you didn’t work it out. Never hide things like children born out of wedlock, arrests that were thrown out, etc.) If your friends signed you up to a Facebook group for boy-man love or spouse-swapping, don’t be surprised if USCIS knows. Use caution, not just common sense, in your online privacy settings, don’t take friend requests from strangers, and hire a lawyer and tell your lawyer the truth before you make a USCIS application.

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