USCIS Transformation Initiative for Online Electronic Filings

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is undertaking a series of technological updates known as the Transformation Initiative. Transformation is essentially an effort by USCIS to move the application process from a paper-based system to an online, electronic system. These changes will be of interest to MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers.

Online Individual Account System for Filing Benefits and Providing Updates

Transformation is intended to provide better service to those seeking immigration benefits. One of the key components of the transformation is the use of an account-based system. Those seeking immigration benefits will be able to create online accounts. According to the USCIS WebSite, applicants will be able to utilize these accounts for such functions as updating personal information, scheduling appointments, requesting benefits and submitting information, and viewing case status and history.

When the system is fully implemented, individuals seeking immigration benefits, such as the employment authorization document (EAD) or a change of status, will be able to apply online through an individual customer account. In addition, when one initially signs up for a customer account, s/he will input biographical information that will auto-populate all subsequent applications filed, removing the need to reenter personal information multiple times. Once implemented, the system will allow online payment by credit card and will provide receipt numbers immediately.

Transformation Timeframe to Start by Fall 2011

While the USCIS does not have a deadline for the completion of the transformation process, it has set timeline goals. The first phase, which will establish customer accounts for Form I-539, Application to Change or Extend Status filings, has a goal of being in place by the end of fiscal year 2011 (FY11). The project has been contracted to IBM. According to the USCIS response to the CIS Ombudsman’s 2010 report to Congress, substantial steps have been taken toward reaching this goal, with the first customer-facing changes scheduled for implementation in the last quarter of FY11. This phase, according to the USCIS, would include the online individual accounts, electronic filings, online biometric scheduling, and the capability for applicants to upload documentary evidence.

Second Phase Expansion to all Nonimmigrant Benefit to Start by Fall 2012

The second phase, which will expand the system to include all nonimmigrant (temporary) benefit application and petition types, is on the projected timeline for the end of FY12. This second phase will allow employers and lawyers to create accounts for case management. Additional phases are scheduled for delivery through the second quarter of FY14. Over time, the USCIS plans to expand the system to all immigrant (permanent) benefit case types, humanitarian benefits (such as asylum) and naturalization (citizenship).


The transformation of the USCIS from primarily a paper-based system to an online system will be an enormous shift in its operations. Over the past few years, our firm has already begun to see positive results of the USCIS’s improved use of technology. There are bound to be delays and technical difficulties, as is to be expected with such a massive undertaking. If the transformation process operates according to current plans, it will greatly reduce requests for the submission of duplicate information and documentation. We will continue to keep MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers apprised of advances related to the USCIS Transformation Initiative.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.