Immigration process still dominated by paper

A ten-year effort by US Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring up to date the methods by which they process countless immigration documents by changing from a system done almost entirely on paper to one done on computers is over-budget, inadequate and still wildly behind schedule.

That is the conclusion reached by an audit conducted by the Inspector General on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security. This marks the fifth time in ten years that an audit has slammed the way the automation program is being handled. There are as many as 90 different kinds of immigration services and benefits, yet after a decade as little as just two of them can actually be accessed online; one that allows applicants to pay online for a visa application, and one to apply for a green card replacement.

Despite many years having been spent developing the Electronic Immigration System, which is supposed to be the backbone of the entire effort, it has been described as “inadequate” by the audit, lacking the kind of critical functionality that is necessary to process immigration applications and featuring many technical problems that have yet to be dealt with.

19,000 people are employed by the agency in as many as 223 offices all over the world including downtown San Diego which deals with the counties of Imperial and San Diego. The audit points out that in all of these offices almost all of the work continues to be done on paper.