By Angela Covo
La Prensa de San Antonio
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started to provide online services this week to help people streamline the application process and check their status. US- CIS launched the first phase of the electronic immigration benefits sys- tem, known as USCIS ELIS earlier this week. They created the system to modernize the process for filing and adjudicating immigration benefits.
Individuals will be able to file applications and pay fees online, expect shorter processing times and be able to update user profiles, receive notices, and respond to requests electronically. The system also includes tools to combat fraud and identify national security concerns.
“Today marks a significant milestone in our agency’s history,” USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas explained. “We have launched the foundation for the web-based future of our agency and our immigration benefits system. USCIS ELIS will transform how we interact with our customers and how we manage the 6-7 million applications we receive each year.”
With this digital revolution, the agency believes it is much closer to realizing the future of immigration services. Right now, individuals can establish a USCIS ELIS account and apply online to extend or change their nonimmigrant status for certain visa types.
Eligible individuals include foreign citizens who travel to the United States temporarily to study, conduct business, receive medical treatment, or visit on vacation. USCIS ELIS also enables USCIS officers to review and adjudicate online filings from multiple agency locations across the country.
Before this update, USCIS customers had to use snail mail to apply for most benefits creating a paper storm and backlogs at USCIS. The department’s employees used to only be able to review paper files shipping documents between offices to complete adjudications.
The digital transition for America’s immigration benefits system is also a transformation for USCIS. They anticipate the process will take time and continued dedication to fully implement.
The launch is an important first step. In a press release, USCIS explained this digital launch is just the first of several releases. Future releases will add different forms and functions to the system, gradually expanding to cover filing and adjudication for all USCIS immigration benefits.
USCIS anticipates making adjustments and improvements in response to user feedback, which will also help them enhance the user experience for both customers and USCIS employees.
In a statement earlier this week, the agency also said the step by step approach allows the agency to smooth the transition to electronic filing over time, ever mindful of those individuals without computer access and the agency’s commitment to serve its diverse customer base.
Visit www.uscis.gov/uscis-elis to take a tour of the new system, learn about eligibility and the benefits of using USCIS ELIS, and find frequently asked questions.