It was only a matter of time before social media information was going to be collected state-side. Our regular readers will know that we have been writing about social media handle collection for sometime now. It was implemented for all applications filed at the embassy. However, on September 4th 2019, a new rule was proposed by DHS to collect social media handles for applications filed in the US with the USCIS. While this is only a 5-page document (instead of the hundreds of pages we’ve recently seen for public charge and EB5s), it is packed with vital and concerning information. Here is what you need to know:
- ESTA applications will now see mandatory fields to provide social media handles. Otherwise, you will not be able to submit the application form online.
- The rule states that providing social media handles is not mandatory for DHS forms- meaning forms will not be rejected or denied simply for this omission, but officers will likely not be make a determination on the case without the handles. In other words, if you don’t provide social media handles, don’t expect an approval on your case.
- Initial list of social media handles on DHS forms will be: Ask FM, Douban, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, Qzone(QQ), Reddit, Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tumbler, Twitter, Twoo, Vine, Vkontakte (VK), youKu and YouTube. Admittedly, I have personally not heard of some of these, but they exist.
- The rule states that passwords will not be required. Your privacy setting will allow them to see what you allow the public to see.
- These social media platforms will be updated from time to time;
- These are the forms that will be affected: N-400, I-131, I-192, I-485, I-589, I-590, I-730, I-751 and I-829;
- There is an interesting paragraph about religious work visa and green cards. The rule states that “USCIS may verify information given by the petitioner “through any means determined appropriate” including “review of any other records that the USCIS considers pertinent to the integrity of the organization” with which the religious worker is affiliated.” This concerns me because it tells me USCIS will look at information to which we may not have access, and therefore, may not be able to rebut. In addition, I can anticipate that Muslim religious workers are likely going to see an immediate heightened level of scrutiny.
- The rule is based on the executive order 13780 “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorists entry into the United States”. In the name of national security, the administration is once again adding another block on the invisible wall to restrict immigration.
As the USCIS gets ready to roll out ‘public charge’ forms on October 15th for anyone applying for a green card or immigration benefit, this new social media rule will undoubtedly add to the scrutiny cases will receive. Given the broad discretion given to officers, we are likely going to see an increase in denials of green cards, citizenship, asylum, refugee and other types of cases as listed above. Similar to other social media rules, we don’t really know what DHS/CBP is going to look for. Will any and all anti-Trump posts be the focal point? Or will the applicant’s friends’ postings be imputed to him/her, like the Iranian Harvard student who was recently turned away? And, It’s likely a matter of time that this rule will be rolled into other types of visa applications too.
If you are outraged, then comment on the rule. Here is a link. While the rule will be implemented regardless of your comments, because that his how this administration operates, it is still worthwhile commenting. Your deadline is November 3rd, 2019.
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