Many businesses and organizations are making the switch from paper-based office systems to more online and digitized systems, and the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is no different. Reducing paper use can make organizational efforts more effective, can reduce costs, and can make office processes more environmentally-friendly. The USCIS hopes to realize all these goals with its new USCIS Transformation initiative.
USCIS Transformation is an initiative to make the USCIS less reliant on paper-based forms and processes and more focused on electronic processes and forms. This can actually make immigration processes more secure, as all information submitted will be stored on secure servers and in secure environments. As part of USCIS Transformation, the USCIS has already debuted USCIS ELIS (Electronic Immigration System).
USCIS ELIS allows people to seek USCIS customer service online. Immigrants who use USCIS ELIS will be able to apply for immigration benefits online using USCIS ELIS and the USCIS will be able to process applications more securely, quickly, and efficiently using the same system. So far, some applicants will be able to use USCIS ELIS to file Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status). Eventually, the USCIS plans to allow immigrant petitioners to file many more forms using the system.
According to the UCIS, there are many benefits to the USCIS ELIS system:
- Users can create an account that allows them to submit forms. An account makes it easier for applicants to track their applications and for the USCIS to process applicants. Creating an account also reduces the amount of information you need to re-type in each immigration form. The form also allows you to update your contact information easily and automatically get updates about your immigration forms.
- Use a secure system to communicate with the USCIS. The system allows you to e-file immigration forms, instantly send digital versions of required documents, and pay via credit card. USCIS ELIS even allows an attorney or other representative to file online for you.
- Get updates and help in real time. USCIS ELIS includes an online setup assistant that includes step-by-step help as you file an immigration benefit request. There are also “help” and “tip” sections to help you file your petitions correctly. You can also obtain detailed status information instantly using the system, so that you don’t have to wait to hear the outcome of your application.
The USCIS already allows for some e-filing and allows all immigrants to download forms online. However, the USCIS Transformation and USCIS ELIS initiatives promise to make filing immigration petitions even safer and faster.