On Wednesday, September 4, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced in the Federal Register that they would soon begin collecting social media user identifications, such as a person’s usernames, identifiers, or handles. DHS announced in the rule that they would not collect any passwords. Finally, the Applicant would only be forced to disclose any social media user identifications that they have used in the past five years.
The Department also stated the reasoning behind this increase in the collection of data was to help validate an applicant’s identity information and to determine whether such travel or grant of a benefit poses a law enforcement or national security risk to the United States. The initial list of social media platforms that the Department will expect to receive a user’s identification is as follows:
- Ask FM
- Qzone (QQ)
- Sina Weibo
- Tencet Weibo
- Vkontakte (VK)
These social network platforms are giants, and the number of people that use them is enormous. Approximately 2 billion internet users are using social networks around the globe. Interestingly, this list includes European services like Vkontakte or VK and Chinese social networks such as Qzone (QQ) and Renren, which are each growing their brands in terms of active users. The number of people that engage with social media, which will then be affected by this rule is expected to grow as platforms expand into new regions and infrastructure development becomes more accessible.
This new rule underscores the importance of social media user’s understanding and enabling privacy settings if they wish for their social media profiles to be kept from the public eye. While it is unlikely that using social media would hinder a person’s immigration application, it certainly could affect their application if they are deemed a national security risk or include a work history on their social media profile that is not disclosed on their immigration application. The Department is allowing comment on the proposed rule and those that wish to make a comment must do so by November 4, 2019. If you or your loved one have questions about social media and immigration, please contact our Chhabra & Gibbs, P.A. Immigration Team by calling 601-927-8430 or 601-948-8005 or by using our live chat,, so that we can assist you.