Updates on DHS Policy for Immigrant Social Media Information and Health Insurance Rules

Published on: Nov 11, 2019, Last Edited: Nov 11, 2019 | Tags: USA Immigration, USA Visa


USA immigration policy is changing with regard to social media. The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is planning to include a new question requesting social media user names on applications including naturalization and green card forms, similar to social-media related questions that already appear on U.S. ESTA and non-immigrant visa applications.

The agency states that the data will be used to identify security threats and to check on identities, but immigration rights groups are worried that the new rules are an invasion of privacy and will cause even more delays in an immigration system that already suffers from lengthy backlogs.

What is the new DHS social media policy?

The federal agency will request applicants for citizenship and green cards, as well as visitors to the US from certain countries, to list all their usernames and social media accounts they have used over the previous five years. The social media platforms will include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The DHS will not request passwords and says it will view only information publicly available to enable them to determine whether the applicant presents a national security or law enforcement risk to the USA.

The social media platform question will be included on the Application for Adjustment of Status (Form 1-485) and on the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) amongst others.

What are the implications for you?

The policy will affect couples who need to prove the legality of their marriage, or a husband or wife seeking to remove the conditions attached to their temporary green card. For example, a US immigration official would be able to check a spouse’s posts on social media accounts to verify whether the relationship is a legal marriage.

Is the government checking social media a new procedure?

The DHS has kept files on the social media accounts of immigration applicants, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens, since 2017. A State Department policy has required Immigration applicants from outside the USA to provide information about their social media forum accounts since June this year.

Critics see the new policy as a threat to freedom of speech and the privacy of both immigrants and US citizens, as well as creating further delays in the system.

What should applicants do?

The DHS has stated that it will only check on information that is made public and will not access any private social media accounts. Follow these tips when using social media if you wish to minimize the available data of your public profiles:

  • Set all your accounts to private so that only minimal information available to public view.
  • Do not accept friend requests from people who are unknown to you.
  • Make sure you are up to speed on how the various social media platforms operate. Your accounts may not be as private as you believe. For example, when you tag a friend on a photo or post on Facebook, all their friends can also see it.

When will the new social media rule be applied?

A public consultation period of 60 days cane to an end on November 4th and unless court rulings block it, the new rule is likely to be applied in the next few weeks.

Immigrant health insurance rule blocked by US judge

President Trump’s proposal that immigrants should prove that they have medical insurance or can pay for their health care has been blocked by Oregon District Judge Michael Simon. The district judge has granted a preliminary injunction with regard to this proposal.

Immigrant rights groups and seven private citizens had filed a suit arguing that the proposal would disproportionately affect thousands of immigrants entering the USA annually on family-sponsored visas.

In a legal order, Judge Simon states that the ruling would potentially cause irreparable harm to countless families and a US-wide ban was therefore justified.

The new proposal is part of the Trump administration’s attempts to shift USA immigration policy away from a family-based model. The United States healthcare system is very complex and immigrants had struggled to understand how to acquire medical insurance before arrival, a situation that the health care system had not been designed for.

Judge Simon’s 28-day restraining order prevents the ruling coming into effect immediately but the legal fight is set to continue as the ruling is likely to be appealed by the President.

The Trump administration argues that immigrants should be able to pay their own healthcare costs and that the United States should not be liable but experts in health policy point out that research shows that immigrants are in fact 30% less likely to use the medical system than US citizens.



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