This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

An increasing number of passengers are being refused entry at US borders because of their social media activity. Whether sent by them or received by them, messages, images and videos on travellers’ phones have blocked them from entering the country.

Since June, most visa applicants travelling or moving to the US have been required to list five years of social media handles/profiles, email addresses and phone numbers on their applications as part of the current administration’s ‘extreme vetting’ policy. But the search of your personal life and how you communicate with friends and family doesn’t end there.

The policy also gives immigration officials enormous discretion and power to determine if foreigners should be granted access to the country, even if they have satisfied all other entry requirements like ESTA approval. This includes the power to search the traveller’s personal devices for anything suspicious. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deny hundreds of potential entrants every day and do not have to give reasons. Almost 100 devices like mobile phones and laptop computers are searched every day, including those of US citizens. This means unlocking your device when you land and allowing a CBP officer to hunt through the phone to find, well… Anything.

The BBC reports one of the most extreme cases was where a Harvard freshman student who was also a Palestinian national was denied entry in Boston for his friend’s social media activity.

CBP searches can include messages sent and received in WhatsApp. This means that a funny meme shared in a WhatsApp group chat by someone you barely know could face scrutiny from a Customs and Border Protection officer next time you land in the US.

Not every passenger will be searched in this manner, given there are more than one million people entering the US every single day. But it is worth being aware of what is on your phone next time you’re landing at a US airport as you may be required to hand it over for searching.

Featured image by WhatsApp

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

The American Express® Business Platinum Card

The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points as well as a slew of other valuable benefits like lounge access, hotel elite status and a digital subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times for Primary and Platinum Supplementary Cardmembers.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend £6k in your first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Up to 99 free Supplementary Cards - one complimentary Platinum Employee Cards and 98 Complimentary Gold Employee Cards
  • Global Lounge Collection - Access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries, including The Centurion® Lounges and membership of Priority Pass™
  • Hotel Status at Hilton, Marriott Bonvoy™, Meliá Hotels International, Radisson Hotel Group, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts – enjoy benefits such as complimentary upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, enhanced loyalty points, complimentary Wi-Fi and more
  • The Times and The Sunday Times annual digital subscription (£312 value per Card) – available for Primary and all Supplementary Cardmembers
  • Fine Hotels and Resorts – Enjoy a collection of over 1,000 hand-selected iconic 5-star properties worldwide. Receive complimentary benefits worth an average total value of £400 per stay.*
  • £150 statement credit for every booking with onefinestay (unlimited use)
  • Dedicated Account Management Team
Annual Fee
£595
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.