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USCIS Developsa New Online Filing System
According to Mr.Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency is currently developing the “Transformation System”, which will “transform” USICS froma “paper-based agency into an electronic, online organization.”
The New System
The new technology is called the “Electronic Immigration System (ELIS)”. Instead of releasing the whole system at once, USCIS will periodically release it, and each subsequent release will cover a different kind of immigration benefit or add new features to the existing system. The first release will cover the benefit type of “Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status” (Form I-539).
USCIS also released an informational video to demonstrate the online processing at http://blog.uscis.gov/ . From the video, we can tell that the applicant needs to register a new account, fill out the personal information and select the case type. The program first checks the applicant’s eligibility for that type of case by asking questions. Applicants can also submit additional evidence online by submitting the photocopies of required documents.
Differences from the E-Filing
The current E-Filing system is apparently different from ELIS. For example, if you file an I-140 case, you may use E-Filing to submit the I-140 Form and pay the application fee. However, you still need to mail the additional information and evidence to USCIS after the E-filing, which does not seem to reduce the applicant’s work too much. On the contrary, the new system will eliminate the mailing procedure, which means everything can be done online. The applicant may pay the applicationfee, fill the form as well as submit the evidence via ELIS.
The paperless approach aims to protect the environment and reduce administrative costs as well. For USCIS, online filing can minimize the inevitable mistakes made by the paper-based filing via human error, such as missing documents, mixture of photos, typos when inputting information into the computer, etc. For applicants, it can save the mailing costs as well as the potential problems caused by carriers. ELIS can also expedite the processing of immigration petitions by mainly using computers.It should be mentioned that online filing can have its own disadvantages. The immigration filing could be seasonal for certain cases. For example, if ELIS covers the H-1B benefits on April 1 each year, then thousands of cases will be filed during that time period since that is the first day for filing the next FY’s HB-1 benefits.Many petitioners will try to get their cases admitted before the caps ran out. Once a website crash takes place, all the H-1B petitions will be influenced.
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