USCIS: “New Technology Approach to Enable Expansion of Online Filing”

by Joseph McKeown

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last week a “new strategy known as eProcessing” in order to “accelerate USCIS’ transition to a digital business model.” L. Francis Cissna, the current USCIS director who just announced he is resigning effective June 1, 2019, says in the press release: “eProcessing modernizes USCIS’ work to create a paperless solution that is more effective for applicants, our officers, and our partner agencies.” According to USCIS, eProcessing will be a “complete digital experience” that will include everything from applying for a benefit to communicating with USCIS to obtaining a decision on a case.

USCIS receives more than 8 million requests for immigration benefits every year. They have tried for years to develop a workable and efficient system for online filing. The agency reportedly spends $300 million per year on paper, and their alleged mismanagement of paper-based applications as well as clerical errors in processing paper-based evidence has caused serious consequences for certain immigrants. With eProcessing, USCIS states, they plan to “connect previously separate technology systems within the agency to ultimately improve decision timeliness, increase transparency during the application process, and to accelerate the availability of online filing for all immigration benefits.”

As one of the first steps toward the eProcessing model, certain nonimmigrants can now file Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) online if they are applying as a single applicant (without co-applicants or legal/accredited representation) to extend their stay and hold the following status as a:

  • B-1 temporary visitor for business;

  • B-2 temporary visitor for pleasure;

  • F-1 academic student with a specific status expiration date;

  • F-2 spouse or child of an academic student with a specific expiration date;

  • M-1 vocational student; or

  • M-2 spouse or child of an M-1 student.

Applicants may confirm their online filing eligibility and check instructions on the USCIS website and file with their USCIS account. Other classifications available for online applications are expected to come soon.