Digital Gov

USCIS digital transformation needs work, says watchdog

USCIS form

The agency responsible for immigration administration is making progress in digitizing its e-filing and adjudication systems, but it still has significant issues, according to the annual report from its official ombudsman.

The report, issued by the independent watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services, shares the same concerns about the multi-year transformation program as an audit report issued in March by DHS Office of Inspector General. That report slammed USCIS' implementation of the Electronic Immigration System (dubbed ELIS), saying it would take three more years and another $1 billion to complete.

While the new report said about 900,000 customers filed and tracked services online using the emerging digital platform, "stakeholders encountered challenges locating or obtaining processing times and obtaining timely customer service."

It said digitized forms available through the platform were limited, with only two -- Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, and the payment of the Immigrant Visa Fee -- out of more than 90 form types and the activities associated with them available for e-filing.

However, the ombudsman said as it was finalizing its report, USCIS had begun entering data provided in select paper-filed forms and adjudicating them electronically, including Form I-821D, Consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and the N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Despite the progress, the ombudsman said the OIG's report is still a big concern, particularly the finding that USCIS' shift to a cloud-based system architecture didn't include more "stakeholder involvement, performance metrics, system testing, or user support needed for [e-filing] to be effective."

The ombudsman recommended USCIS improve its customer service, including examining ways to increase responsiveness to user feedback and allow for more external user involvement to implement holistic approaches.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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