USCIS launches first online form

The Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has launched its first online application form, which the agency said is a key first step in its multi-year transformation initiative to shift from paper to digital forms.

Starting immediately, eligible visa-holders can establish an online account in the USCIS “ELIS” system and apply online to extend the duration of their visit to the United States or request other changes in their status, the agency said in a May 22 news release. The initial application form for visa holders is the first of many forms expected to launch on the ELIS system, which is a new central resource for application and adjudication of immigration benefits.

“Today marks a significant milestone in our agency’s history,” USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said in the release. “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.”

Eligible individuals include foreign citizens who travel to the United States temporarily to study, conduct business, receive medical treatment, or visit on vacation.

The agency said the new digital system will enable quicker and more centralized reviews of the application, because paperwork will no longer need to be collected from multiple agency locations across the country.

“Benefits of using USCIS ELIS include filing applications and paying fees online, shorter processing times, and the ability to update user profiles, receive notices, and respond to requests electronically. The system also includes tools to combat fraud and identify national security concerns,” the agency said.

The agency has been working on its Transformation initiative since 2005 after struggling with a backlog of 1.5 million cases and thousands of missing or poorly-organized paper files.

After delays, the program was believed to be progressing from 2006 to 2009, according to a 2009 audit report from the Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.

In 2008, USCIS awarded IBM Corp. a transformation initiative contract worth as much as $491.1 million over five years. The total transformation program was estimated to cost $536 million at that time.

A report by Nextgov in February 2011 said the total transformation project cost was projected to increase to $2.2 billion.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Wed, May 23, 2012 OccupyIT

Well ISCIS should certainly be proud. Only a decade behind already existing technology. What's a half a billion between friends - or at least voiceless taxpayers and faceless bureaucrats... Benchmark USCIS against Department of State's Consular Affairs or commercial systems that interact with DHS' SEVIS.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group