Details on religion, sexuality and partnership status have all caused headaches for Australian visa applicants.
Ben Winsor

29 Nov 2016 - 3:56 PM  UPDATED 29 Nov 2016 - 4:21 PM

The Department of Immigration is using information from public social media accounts to verify claims made in visa applications, and in some cases catching-out applicants when inconsistencies are found.

A recent Federal Court case declared that information harvested from social media could be used as evidence against visa applicants, upholding a decision to deny a visa to an asylum seeker.

In his application, the individual told Immigration Department that he converted to Christianity before he left Bangladesh, and therefore faced a risk of persecution if he returned.

However, according to his Facebook profile, he was Muslim.

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“Recently with the surge in social media such as Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin, the department does crosscheck the claims made in various social media with applications,” migration agent Peter Michalopoulos told SBS.

Michalopoulos, founder of Ethos Migration in Melbourne, said that one client had an issue applying for a partnership visa because his Facebook profile didn’t have much content relating to his family.

In that case the client didn’t want to appear tied down, for fear of ruining his career prospects, Michalopoulos said.

“Sometimes people’s life is not depicted in Facebook how it actually is in real life,” he told SBS.

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Zeke Bently, who runs The Migration Place in Brisbane, said there are often legitimate reasons for inconsistencies between public profiles and private applications.

“We had a case of a gay couple who did not put their relationship on Facebook because they were concerned about homophobia,” he said.

The applicant was from a Middle Eastern country with laws against homosexuality. 

“The Department raised that as an issue because they assumed a legitimate relationship would have been listed on Facebook,” Bentley said.

Glenn Rayner, with My Migration Agent in Adelaide, had a client in a similar situation.

“I had a case of a Hindu guy and a Muslim girl – and the family doesn’t even know they are together,” he said.

All three migration agents recommended applicants pre-empt any potential issues and offer a brief explanation about potential inconsistencies in their initial application.

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