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On January 28, 2016, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman’s Office (Ombudsman’s Office) hosted a public teleconference on USCIS’s Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). Representatives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Office of Transformation Coordination (OTC) and private immigration practitioners spoke. The discussion focused on USCIS’s efforts and provided information on time tables for program expansion.
Ombudsman Maria Odom provided opening remarks on this office’s ongoing efforts to track customer feedback on USCIS’s electronic filing developments and to help customers experiencing difficulties with USCIS. For example, the Office assisted a significant number of online Immigrant Visa Fee customers with problems pertaining to permanent resident card delivery during the past year.
Following Ombudsman Odom, USCIS representatives provided an overview on the latest news in agency-wide electronic filing efforts. Originally slated for completion in 2013, OTC’s efforts at expanding the program are now slated for completion in 2018. According to USCIS, to date, the program has enrolled 1.5 million users in electronic filing. These users have reported satisfaction to USCIS with the improved customer experience using online filing. USCIS noted that a majority of inquiries to the ELIS Help Desk relate to card production and delivery issues. USCIS provided information on recent electronic filing customer service efforts, including opening the third-party payment option.
USCIS discussed its first product-line to be adjudicated completely online, the Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. In April 2014, USCIS offered electronic filing for the Form I-90 and after one year, USCIS has electronically processed 285,000 Form I-90 applications. USCIS explained how customers can open an online user account to track their application, whether filed by paper or electronically, and use the ELIS Help Desk, if needed.
USCIS also provided data regarding the volume of technical inquiries received from stakeholders. Since October 2013, USCIS has responded to 164,000 customer inquiries. Response times for technical inquiries run from 24 hours to six days.
USCIS highlighted its address change verification procedures for electronic filings. When mailing an applicant’s Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) card, USCIS uses the address the applicant provided to the U.S. Department of State at the time of their interview abroad. Customers who plan to change address upon admission to the United States should share the update with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the time of entry to the United States, in addition to updating the address with USCIS. Additionally, USCIS recommended that applicants update their addresses directly with the U.S. Postal Service to further safeguard proper delivery of an LPR card.
Finally, USCIS announced its plan for launching electronic filing for Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status and Form N-400, Application for Naturalization during summer 2016. USCIS will also make electronic filing available for Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur in 2017 and Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status in 2018.
Mr. Dan Berger, partner at the Massachusetts law firm of Curran and Berger, commended USCIS for its work on electronic filing options. He said that adding the ability to upload documents has improved the electronic processing of Form I-90 and that the attorney log-in functionality has streamlined the electronic filing process.
Mr. Berger inquired with USCIS about the best way to follow-up if an individual does not receive his or her LPR card. USCIS responded that 60 days after payment of the form fee, customers or their attorneys may contact the National Customer Service Center or the USCIS ELIS Help Desk for assistance. Finally, Mr. Berger asked about the availability of a case-management system that could interface with private electronic filing systems. USCIS indicated that an electronic case-management system is slated for deployment in Fiscal Year 2018.
Mr. Jarred Slater, partner at the Quan Law Group in Texas, praised USCIS’s user-friendly electronic filing process, specifically citing a user’s ability to see case history and progress updates on individual cases. Mr. Slater shared concerns with locating contact information for the USCIS ELIS Help Desk and recommended making it more accessible. Mr. Slater expressed an interest in more form types being made available for electronic filing.
In response, USCIS indicated that it prioritizes form roll-outs based on the volume of filing for the product line. USCIS stated it would continue to hold public engagement events to announce upcoming roll-outs through 2018.
Other customer questions addressed how USCIS is monitoring the unauthorized practice of law. USCIS provided information on its on-going efforts to work with the U.S. Department of Justice to build safeguards for customers.
USCIS directed customers to visit its website for additional information pertaining to electronic filing. That site is: https://www.uscis.gov/file-online.