12

The ESTA application has an "Online Presence" optional field, where one can provide their identifiers for various websites (example: Facebook, Instagram, etc.).

As the field is optional, I decided to not fill it.

What are the pros and cons of filling the "Online Presence" field?

This website explains that

The point, of course, is to enhance national security as well as possible. In providing your social media information, US Customs and Border Protection Agents can see if you have any connections or ties to groups that could threaten the security of the country.

I guess there are more reasons to not fill it rather than filling it.

Are there any situation where it is a good idea to fill it?

  • 1
    Purely anecdotal: I didn't fill it in for my ESTA six months ago, and it took five days to approve it compared to the normal 15-30 minutes previous times. I suppose I might have been selected for extra screening even if I did give them social media info, or refusing might have flagged something. – Johanna Dec 17 '18 at 9:38
  • 4
    The official documentation says: "If an applicant does not answer the question or simply does not hold a social media account, the ESTA application can still be submitted without a negative interpretation or inference." One really wonders what the point of the question really is in that case... – jcaron Dec 17 '18 at 10:04
  • 2
    Unrelated: quite bizarre that GitHub is in the list of social media platforms! – jcaron Dec 17 '18 at 10:06
  • 3
    @jcaron They want to check if you develop open source nuclear missile control software. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Dec 17 '18 at 13:41
  • 4
    @Giorgio But if the applicant doesn't supply social media, how could it be automatically checked? – MJeffryes Dec 17 '18 at 16:27
3
+250

According to CBP official website FAQ on the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act Frequently Asked Questions, the question is completely optional.

Do I have to answer the new questions if the provisions of the new Act do not apply to me?

Yes. All ESTA applicants must complete all non-optional fields on the ESTA application.

The social media question is optional. The ESTA application will clearly inform the applicant that answering it is optional.

and also

How will CBP use my social media information collected through the additional questions being added to the ESTA application in October 2016?

Information found in social media will enhance the vetting process and may be used to review ESTA applications to validate legitimate travel, adjudicate VWP ineligibility waivers, and identify potential threats. If you choose to answer these questions and an initial vetting by CBP indicates possible information of concern or a need to further validate information, a highly trained CBP officer will have timely visibility of the publicly available information on those platforms, consistent with the privacy settings the applicant has chosen to adopt for those platforms, along with other information and tools CBP officers regularly use in the performance of their duties.

For example, social media may be used to support or corroborate a traveler’s application information, which will help facilitate legitimate travel by providing an additional means to adjudicate issues related to relevant questions about identity, occupation, previous travel, and other factors. It may also be used to identify potential deception or fraud. Social media may help distinguish individuals of additional concern from those individuals whose information substantiates their eligibility for travel.

DHS will handle social media identifiers in the same manner as other information collected through ESTA. DHS has documented these procedures in the updated ESTA System of Records Notice (SORN) and Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), which are available on the DHS website (http://www.dhs.gov/topic/privacy).


And to answer your questions...

What are the pros and cons of filling the "Online Presence" field?

  • Pros: Information found in social media will enhance the vetting process and may be used to review ESTA applications to validate legitimate travel, adjudicate VWP ineligibility waivers, and identify potential threats. Social media may help facilitate legitimate travel by providing an additional means to adjudicate issues related to relevant questions about identity, occupation, previous travel, and other factors.

  • Cons: none, except they can look into your social media.

Are there any situation where it is a good idea to fill it?

Yes, if you have nothing to hide and do not mind sharing your social media with CBP for investigation into your background. It can help verify your intention of travel and your legitimacy, completely at your discretion.

  • 5
    So Pro: They look into your social media, Con: They look into your social media – Peter M Dec 2 '19 at 17:38
  • 1
    @PeterM lifehack: have no social media. – JoErNanO Dec 4 '19 at 22:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.