On September 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published two notices asking for public comment on DHS's plan to modify a number of CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) and USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) forms to ask for additional identifying information and add social media presence questions. Comments on both notices are due by November 4, 2019.

On November 4, NAFSA joined the American Council on Education and nearly a dozen other higher education associations on a comment letter regarding DHS’s proposal to include questions on its forms asking for additional identifying and social media presence information. Read the comment letter.

The following are the only forms affected by these notices.

CBP Forms

  • ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), used by Visa Waiver Program travelers
  • EVUS (Electronic Visa Update System), used by travelers with a 10-year B1/B2, B1 or B2 visa in a Peoples Republic of China passport
  • I-94W Record of admission for Visa Waiver Program entrants in WB and WT status

USCIS Forms

  • 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 Status
  • 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 Status

Additional identifying information

The first notice, published at 84 FR 46552 (9/4/19), describes adding the following identifying items to both electronic and paper versions of these forms, if the form does not already collect it:

  1. Name
  2. Sex/Gender
  3. Date of Birth
  4. City/Region and Country of Birth
  5. Country/Countries of Citizenship
  6. Country of Residence
  7. Passport/Travel Document or National ID
  8. Country of issuance
  9. Issue date
  10. Expiration date
  11. Telephone Number(s)
  12. Email address(es)
  13. U.S. Address: Residence or Destination city
  14. U.S. Address: Residence or Destination state
  15. Foreign Address city
  16. Foreign Address state
  17. U.S. Point of Contact Name, if applicant is located outside of the United States
  18. U.S. Point of Contact Telephone Number, if applicant is located outside of the United States

Go to 84 FR 46552 (9/4/19) on federalregister.gov to read this first notice to submit a comment. Comments are due by November 4, 2019.

Social media presence questions

The second notice, published at 84 FR 46557 (9/4/19), describes adding the following social media questions to both electronic and paper versions of these forms. The questions are similar to the social media questions that were added to the Department of State's (DOS) Form DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application earlier this year.

"Please enter information associated with your online presence over the past five years:

Provider/Platform (dropdown bar will provide multiple choices, including "Other", and "None" for those who do not use the platforms listed)

Social Media Identifier(s) over the past five years (free text field for applicant to enter information)"

Social Media Identifier(s) are also known as usernames, identifiers, or "handles." DHS is not requiring the applicant to provide passwords.

The Social Media Provider/Platforms to be included initially on the forms are:

  1. ASK FM
  2. DOUBAN
  3. FACEBOOK
  4. FLICKR
  5. INSTAGRAM
  6. LINKEDIN
  7. MYSPACE
  8. PINTEREST
  9. QZONE (QQ)
  10. REDDIT
  11. SINA WEIBO
  12. TENCENT WEIBO
  13. TUMBLER
  14. TWITTER
  15. TWOO
  16. VINE
  17. VKONTAKTE (VK)
  18. YOUKU
  19. YOUTUBE

Both electronic and paper versions of the forms will also include an option for "Other", and "None" for those who do not use the platforms listed.

In addition, USCIS will modify the Applicant's Certification section on the applicable USCIS forms and petitions to include the following text:

"I also authorize USCIS to use publicly available social media information for verification purposes and to determine my eligibility for the immigration benefit that I seek. I further understand that USCIS is not requiring me to provide passwords; to log into a private account; or to take any action that would disclose non-publicly available social media information."

The Federal Register notice contains the following additional notes on the scope of the social media questions, which may be helpful as you consider possible comments:

"The request for social media platforms, providers, and websites will focus on those fora that the individual uses to collaborate, share information and interact with others."

"The platforms selected represent those which are among the most popular on a global basis. The platforms listed may be updated by the Department by adding or removing platforms in order to evolve the U.S. Government's uniform vetting with emerging communication technologies and common usage; therefore, the list will change over time. These changes will be made on a periodic basis under this generic clearance. Platform changes will be submitted to OMB for approval prior to inclusion. OMB will review to make sure that such suggested new platforms meet the description of public-facing social media handles contained above."

"Non-social media websites, such as those for applicants to carry out financial transactions, medical appointment and records, homeowner's associations, travel, and tourism are not germane to this information collection."

"Although such collection of social media user identifications is `mandatory' to complete the DHS forms, it is not required to obtain or retain a benefit.[4] However, for CBP's ESTA, and EVUS forms, the applicant will be unable to submit the online application if they do not provide a response to the mandatory social media field. Nonetheless, the applicant may proceed if they answer none or other. 8 CFR 103.2(a)(1) provides that forms must be completed in accordance with form instructions. CBP will continue to adjudicate a form where social media information is not answered, but failure to provide the requested data may either delay or make it impossible for CBP to determine an individual's eligibility for the requested benefit."

"For USCIS, the proposed information collection for social media information is not "mandatory" in the sense that an application will be denied or rejected based solely on the lack of a response. USCIS will continue to adjudicate a form where social media information is not answered, but failure to provide the requested data may either delay or make it impossible for USCIS to determine an individual's eligibility for the requested benefit."

Go to 84 FR 46557 (9/4/19) on federalregister.gov to read this notice to submit a comment. Comments are due by November 4, 2019. On November 4, NAFSA joined the American Council on Education and nearly a dozen other higher education associations on a comment letter regarding this DHS proposal. Read the comment letter.

Note that CBP officers also have the authority to search laptops, cell phones, or other electronic devices, but exercise of that separate authority is not within the scope of this DHS notice.