Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is Creeping You: How Your Social Media Use Can Affect Your Immigration Application

July 2018


Following what is going on in someone's life by watching their status messages on Instant Messengers such as MSN, and their updates to their social networking profiles on websites like Facebook or MySpace.


Have you applied for temporary or permanent residence status in Canada? You should know that there is a very good chance that IRCC will be looking at your social media profile.  Do you profess to have worked for a certain company?  Your LinkedIn profile can confirm or contradict that claim. It can also substantiate whether you worked there for the dates you indicated in your application.  Any discrepancies can affect the reliability of your application. 

Social media use also plays an important role in evaluating whether a marriage is genuine. Individuals who wish to sponsor a spouse to Canada can provide social media information showing a public relationship to fulfill one of the two documentary requirements for proof of their relationship.  Spouses not living together at the time of the application are permitted to provide up to 10 pages of social media conversations, to provide proof of contact between them.

In Tang v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2009 CanLII 90286 (CA IRB), the Immigration Appeal Division had to deal with a case where IRCC was suspicious when chat logs dates seemed inconsistent with information given by the couple concerning the timing of their engagement:

[21]           Eventually the subject of marriage is raised.  Now it is here that the respondent expressed concern over the apparent inconsistency between the stated date of the proposal and the chat log record that would seem to establish a different date.  According to the testimony of the appellant and applicant the subject of marriage came up in the course of their playing an on-line game on April 26, 2006.  According to the appellant, the applicant took her to a nice place in the game and started to buy her many nice "virtual” things.  It was here that they both insist the applicant proposed.

In this case, the Immigration Appeal Board reversed the decision of the immigration officer who had originally denied the sponsorship application, commenting that:

[33]      Finally, the panel has read most of the chat logs.  Conspicuously absent from them is any overt reference to immigration to Canada.  The couple do not dwell on their situation but rather are focused on day-to-day things and the trivial issues of life.  The panel finds no immigration motive.

If you are applying to renew your permanent resident card, or apply for citizenship, this is another opportunity for immigration officers to verify information given to them against your online profile.

In Shahein v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2015 FC 987, the Federal Court of Canada upheld the dismissal of an application for citizenship where there were questions about whether the physical presence requirement had been met.  Information declared on the application was inconsistent with the applicant’s LinkedIn profile:

[7]               Dr. Shahein’s “LinkedIn” profile states that he was a Pediatric Intern at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio from February of 2013 to May of 2014. This was inconsistent with Dr. Shahein’s statement to the Citizenship Judge that he only began working at the hospital in July of 2013.

The Immigration and Refugee Board also uses social media research. In 2012 the Immigration and Refugee Protection Division introduced Chairperson’s Instructions for Gathering and Disclosing Information for Refugee Protection Division Proceedings. 

Here are two examples of how Facebook posts were used to discredit refugee claimants:

[15]           The Minister’s representative asked the RPD to reject the refugee protection claim because of the claimant’s contradictory statements regarding the identity of members of her family. More specifically, he submits that the information appearing on her Facebook page and on the Facebook page of someone named XXXX XXXX, presented in the BOC Form as the claimant’s brother, raises serious doubts as to the truth of her statements in the BOC Form regarding the fact that she would have to submit to a forced marriage if she were to return to the DRC.

X (Re), 2016 CanLII 104453 (CA IRB)

[37]           The Appellant alleged that she received many threatening messages from her ex-husband on her Facebook account under the name XXXX XXXX. She testified at her hearing that she deleted the messages and then deleted the account two weeks before the April 8, 2015 sitting of her hearing. She also testified that she had not used this account since leaving the Czech Republic in 2014. The Appellant indicated that she has been using a new Facebook account under the alias, XXXX XXXX XXXX, to avoid detection by her ex-husband. However, the research documents revealed that immediately after the April 8, 2015 sitting, the Facebook account of XXXX XXXX existed, when the Appellant alleges she deleted it two weeks prior to April 8, 2015. The research documents also revealed that the Appellant had posted a number of photographs of herself from September 2014 to January 2015, including photographs with her boyfriend. The research documents revealed that the Facebook account of XXXX XXXX no longer existed on April 13, 2015, suggesting that the Appellant cancelled the account after her April 8, 2015 sitting.

X (Re), 2015 CanLII 108263 (CA IRB)

Social media has become a big part of our lives. It is no surprise that Canadian immigration officials would use it to verify the information provided by applicants.  You would be well advised to check yourself online before submitting your application, to ensure that your information online is consistent.  Presume that you will be ‘creeped’!