DHS plans to collect social media information from visa-free travelers, applicants for adjustment of status, naturalization

5 Sep 19

UNITED STATES

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has revealed plans to collect social media information from applicants for a number of immigration benefits, including visa-free travelers, and applicants for adjustment of status and naturalization, among others. The proposal, published Wednesday, Sept. 4 in the Federal Register, follows the State Department’s move to add questions about social media history to the various U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) application forms and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) online traveler applications.

Applicants would be required to provide any social media user identifications (i.e., usernames, identifiers, or handles) they have used in the past five years on any of 19 social media sites. Passwords will not be requested and should not be provided.

The applications/petitions that would be affected are:

  • Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
  • Form I–94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/ Departure Record
  • Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS)
  • Form N–400, Application for Naturalization
  • Form I–131, Application for Travel Document
  • Form I–192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant
  • Form I–485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust
  • Form I–589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
  • Form I–590, Registration for Classification as Refugee
  • Form I–730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
  • Form I–751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence
  • Form I–829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident

Employment authorization programs would not be affected. DHS has opened up a 60-day public comment period on its new proposal. Those wishing to submit comments must do so by Nov. 4, 2019.

BAL Analysis: The DHS plan is consistent with President Donald Trump’s goal of implementing “extreme vetting” of visa applicants and immigrants to the United States. While the proposed changes of asking for social media information directly from applicants have not yet taken effect, DHS stated in its Federal Register notice that it already collects publicly available social media information.

While use of a particular social media platform alone is unlikely to trigger a direct visa denial or border stop, applicants’ online profiles and any information publicly available on their accounts, including employment details, could provide grounds for further questioning and ultimately lead to denial or refused entry. Applicants should make sure their social media settings and profiles are up to date and be prepared to answer any questions regarding public information available on their social media accounts at their visa interview.

Those wishing to provide comment on the DHS proposal are encouraged to work closely with BAL in doing so.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@balglobal.com.

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