Thirty years ago cells phones were the size of footballs and were limited to making and receiving phone calls. Now we can order dinner, email a coworker, and play Words With Friends with a cousin who lives across the country. The variety and sophistication of apps continues to multiply daily, and that includes apps related to US immigration law. We downloaded and tested some of these apps, and while nothing can replace the value of seeking professional legal advice from an attorney, these may be helpful tools to help with the US immigration process.
Pocket DACA (free) on iTunes and Google Play – On June 15, 2012, President Obama signed a memo outlining consideration for deferred action for certain undocumented foreign nationals called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). One great app we found is Pocket DACA. The app’s main function is to walk the user through the process of figuring out if he/she is eligible to apply for DACA. As users go through the requirements, the app either allows users to continue or stops and explains why the user is not eligible. It also asks follow-up questions depending upon the answers given. If the user makes it to the end of the brief set of questions, the user may enter his/her zip code and find local legal assistance. The app also features a helpful FAQ tab, which tells the user what forms to use, how much it costs to apply for DACA, and other pertinent information. The app also does a great job at updating its DACA news tab. Overall, this is a helpful app for users to find out if they are eligible for DACA.
CitizenshipWorks (free) on iTunes and Google Play – This is one of the most comprehensive immigration mobile apps we found and it is available in both English and Spanish. With this app, the user can determine eligibility for naturalization, learn about the process of naturalizing, find legal assistance, and study for the requisite citizenship test. Additionally, while there are dozens of citizenship tests available in the iPhone app store (ranging from free to $4.99), CitizenshipWorks has perhaps one of the best practice tests we found. Most other apps are set up as a multiple-choice test, which is not how the exam is actually given. CitizenshipWorks’ quiz is set up as a Q&A, best played with a friend. Indeed, the exam is giving orally and this will help the user practice speaking the answers out loud. In short, this app is helpful, easy to navigate, and practical.
USCIS Helper (free) on iTunes – The user plugs in his/her receipt number, and the app will give the case status from the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) website. This app is not affiliated with USCIS, so there is a disclaimer that the app does not guarantee the accuracy of the information. We did, however, check a case to test the app and the information was current and accurate. One drawback is that while the user can store multiple case numbers, there is no place to set an alert for the case number entered. Instead, the user will have to go into the app and check it manually instead of receiving an alert when the status of the case has changed; however, this developer, Spinach Mobile LLC, does have an app available for Android devices and on Google Play called USCIS Case Status Notifier that does just this. This feature on the iPhone could greatly improve the app.
Best Time to Cross the Border (free) on iTunes and Google Play – The app, created by students at the University of California – San Diego, focuses on Mexican and Canadian border wait times. It provides information about entering the United States (not exiting) via foot or car from these countries. On this app, users can not only check current wait times, but can also search the best time to cross according to the average over the previous three months. It also breaks down the wait times according to passenger, commercial, and pedestrian lanes. It should be noted, however, that a quick search through the app’s reviews note several instances when the app was inaccurate.
VisaProcs ($1.99) on iTunes – Like USCIS Helper, VisaProcs is a helpful and practical immigration app. The app provides current visa bulletin dates and visa processing times for various service centers, and while it is not officially affiliated with USCIS, when we checked information against USCIS.gov, it was correct. As with USCIS Helper, while these apps can be a convenient source of information, it is always safest to double-check on USCIS.gov (for free!) for the most current and accurate information.
While we did find some helpful immigration-related apps here, we’re looking forward to a time when USCIS, Customs, and US Embassies/Consulates worldwide use smartphone apps in new and inventive ways to help navigate the immigration process. In the meantime, they are active on YouTube.