Can Immigration Officials Use Your Social Media Accounts Against You?

By James Metcalfe | February 8, 2017

James Metcalfe - Director of ImmigrationJim Metcalfe – Pace Immigration: Can immigration officials use your social media accounts against you? This issue came up during a Federal Court judicial review of a woman who was seeking citizenship in Canada. The preamble from the decision sets the scene:

This is a judicial review of a decision by an officer [the Officer] of Citizenship and Immigration Canada holding the position Citizenship Supervisor, dated April 21, 2016, refusing the Applicant’s application for Canadian citizenship…based on the Officer’s determination that the Applicant misrepresented material facts in relation to her citizenship application.

Immigration And Social Media

Samar El Sayed, an Egyptian citizen, had been a permanent resident of Canada since 2001. She applied for Canadian citizenship in 2013. In her application, she claimed to have been living in Canada for 1422 days, with only 38 days of absence in that time.

As you’ll know from reading our blog posts, to apply for citizenship you must be a permanent resident of Canada and must have been physically present in the country for at least 183 days in each of the past 4 years. Samar’s 1422 days easily cleared this hurdle. On her application, she claimed she was a housewife, and she had left the education and employment sections blank. Very well.

Until the Citizenship Supervisor (CS) went digging into her background.

The CS got on a computer and went to LinkedIn. He discovered a Samar Hegazy – a name which Samar El Sayed had said she used – who had worked for banks based in the Middle East and Switzerland. This raised a flag, as Samar El Sayed had put “banker” on her permanent residence application many years ago. The LinkedIn profile’s dates showed that Samar had worked at the banks during time she should have been in Canada. The CS also discovered stamps in Samar’s passport which contradicted her departure and arrival dates to and from Canada.

Samar was brought in for an interview. She claimed that the LinkedIn profile was not hers. In something of a Perry Mason twist, the CS showed Samar a bank magazine article entitled “Gulf Women – A Growing Segment.” The article quoted a Samar Hegazy and included a picture of Samar El Sayed herself. Samar said the picture could have been used without her knowledge, presumably meaning that it came from a source unrelated to the article.

The immigration official wasn’t satisfied with her answers. In the end, Samar’s application for citizenship was denied and she was found to have misrepresented herself. This bars a person from applying for citizenship for five years.

Social Media Bites Back

Samar appealed the decision. She relied on the theory that a LinkedIn profile can be created by anyone and should not be used as solid evidence. The judge disagreed, and noted the hedge between “El Sayed” and “Hegazy”:

I recognize that the Officer’s decision was significantly influenced by the content of the LinkedIn profile in the name of Samar Hegazy, which Ms. Sayed says she did not create and is not accurate. However, the Officer afforded her an opportunity to respond to this evidence, and the information she provided all spoke to whether the three banks identified in the LinkedIn profile had a record of an employee named Samar El Sayed or SamarElsayed. Neither the letter purportedly from Mahsreq Bank nor Ms. Sayed’s statutory declaration addressed whether these banks had employed a Samar Hegazy, the name in the LinkedIn profile which had given rise to the Officer’s concerns based on the Officer’s observation from the Applicant’s citizenship application that this was a name she used.

Taking this with the other evidence against her, the judge was satisfied that she had indeed misrepresented herself. Her appeal was dismissed. Frankly, I’m surprised that the applicant even went so far as to challenge the decision in federal court.

This case puts people on notice that their social media accounts will be examined by immigration officials.

It’s good to know that the authorities will catch people who misrepresent themselves, but even innocent people should take heed: make sure your social media accounts tell an honest tale, or a mistake could lead to trouble.