DHS to put immigration docs online

The Homeland Security Department plans to allow non-U.S citizens to file two common immigration forms electronically.

Beginning May 29, foreigners will be able to renew a "green card" or a temporary visa and file an application for employment authorization online. These are the two most common immigration forms received each year by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and represent about 30 percent of the applications processed.

"These two forms are the first of many immigration applications we plan to make available for online filing in the near future," said DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.

Alan Balutis, president and chief operating officer of Veridyne Inc., said it's a smart move for DHS to develop e-government initiatives as the new department is built instead of "retrofitting" the department for e-filing as so many federal agencies have been forced to do.

DHS is responsible for the public services of the agencies it has absorbed and must carry out those functions as well as protect the country against terrorist threats, said Paul Brubaker, a partner in the consulting firm ICG Government.

The bureau has developed a way to verify a person's identity when an application is submitted. After submitting the form, an individual must make an appointment with immigration officials, who will collect a photograph, signature and fingerprint and store them in a database. When an application is approved, the applicant receives immigration documents with special security features.

The two e-filing initiatives were in the works under the Immigration and Naturalization Service before it became part of DHS, and other applications will be phased in by the end of this year.

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