DHS recently published its first in an ongoing series of regulations aiming to change immigration benefit filings from paper to electronic.  Finally, the agency will join the 21st Century!. The switch to electronic filing, known for the record as “USCIS Transformation,” will greatly assist the government in its processing of over six million immigrant benefit applications which are filed each year.  Through this electronic system, applicants will be given accounts containing status information regarding various cases they may have; they will also be able to respond to USCIS requests for information through these accounts, receive other communications and decisions from the government, and update their own personal information as needed.

The new regulation implementing the change from paper to electronic applications submission revises over fifty parts of Homeland Security regulations contained in Code of Federal Regulations Title Eight.   The public is invited to comment on these regulations, and may do so until October 28th.  USCIS also extends on its website an invitation to the public to participate in “outreach” engagement sessions to foster communication between the government and the people (especially USCIS customers as well as the agency’s federal partners) regarding this new change. 

The first “transformation” regulation will officially go into effect on November 28th.  And the first application to  be converted is the I-539. This form is used to extend visitor visas, student visas and dependent visas such as F-2, H-4, M-2 and L-2 as well as to change to one of these statuses. However, electronic filing will only be available for B, F, J, and M users of the form at first.  The transformation in this instance will enable e-filing for primary benefit seekers and their dependents as well as for attorneys and other accredited representatives.  It will also enable individual accounts to track multiple cases, facilitate electronic payment and evidence submission, and allow for the checking of one’s case status online. 

USCIS then aims in 2012 to enable online applications for those Forms I-102 (replacement of a lost I-94), I-131 (travel documents), I-765(work authorization documents), I-821, and I-824 (consular notification of visa petitions); customers may also have access to electronic fee waivers, as well as automated eligibility reviews through these applications.  Unfortunately the I-129 is not among one of the forms slated for conversion to electronic filing in 2012, however this may be a good thing as USCIS will have a long opportunity to perfect the system with less complicated application before converting the I-129 with all of its intricacies.

For a prototype view of what the new system will look like, click here.