BEWARE! Immigration Department is watching your Facebook!

In a world that is becoming increasingly globalised, social media has acted as a great tool to communicate and stay connected with loved ones, new and old friends and acquaintances from across the globe. However, with the freedom that comes with such a public platform, we sometimes have to remind ourselves that what we write on the Internet is forever.

You may have heard of prospective employers browsing your Facebook or Twitter profiles to confirm whether you are a suitable candidate. Similarly, in recent migration cases, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has resorted to refusing visa applications based off the material produced by the applicant on his/her Facebook account.

More concerningly the US Customs are now vetting your facebook at customs before they let you in – checking your “friends” and posts in a bid to judge whether you should be let in! Julianne Assange of WikiLeaks, warned the World (from the Ecuadorian embassy in London)  that Facebook is the single largest threat to our privacy. George Orwell’s classic book “1984” was written in 1948 and having recently revisited it, it was alarming how correct his vision of the future was.

Over the years we have seen many clients come to us after they tried to lodge their visa application without an agent, only to have it refused because of inadvertent Facebook posts which were not consistent with their visa application. Part of the due diligence that we do at The Migration Place involves doing similar internet searches to the ones done by the Immigration Department and generally ensuring all of your material and information is consistent. We look at every application as if it was a Court proceeding where we need to ensure the material is bullet proof and deals with all possible immigration queries in advance. Any inconsistencies that we find are then explained in advance to minimise the chance of an issue. We believe the extra care we take in this way, is why we enjoy such a high visa approval rate and fast processing times.

The need to do this is exemplified in a recent decision in AEN16 v Minister for Immigration & Anor (2016) FCCA 2039. In this case, the applicant initially landed in Australia on a Visitor visa from Bangladesh. However, he soon applied for a Protection visa on the basis that he had ongoing fear for his life as he converted from Islam to Christianity and feared religious persecution if he returned to Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) refused the application after the case officer made a finding that the applicant made a false claim about his religious conversion in order to apply for a Protection visa. This finding was based upon the applicant’s Facebook page; which stated his religious identity as being Muslim.

Upon seeking a review of the refusal at the AAT, it was found that the applicant’s failure to amend his Facebook details in accordance with his current beliefs was contrary to his “fabricated” claim of converting to Christianity.

The case was then taken to the Federal Circuit Court where the Judge affirmed that the applicant’s Facebook account did comprise information of an evidentiary nature. However, this also implied that procedural fairness principles should have applied. That is, the applicant must be provided clear particulars of the Facebook material used as well as have the opportunity to comment or respond.

Nonetheless, there are lessons to be learnt from this case:

  1. Ensure your Facebook is appropriate or sufficiently private.
  2. When submitting an application, check that your social media accounts reflect the true and current state of things (at the time of lodgement).
  3. Know your rights and obligations.
  4. Engage an experienced migration lawyer ASAP – ideally before you lodge, otherwise after you receive any request to explain inconsistent evidence, and certainly if you receive a visa refusal.

The visa refusal rate is climbing and the process is getting harder so do yourself an favour and call the skilled team of Immigration Lawyers and Registered Migration Agents at The Migration Place to assist you.

We have the expertise and experience to determine which visa is most suitable for your circumstances and we will see through your application to the very end. Contact one of our friendly staff members today on (07) 3229 4025. Alternatively, click here to send us your details.