USCIS Deployment of Electronic Filing System by December 2011

The USCIS Office of Transformation Coordination (OTC) recently provided an overview of the current status of the USCIS Transformation. Transformation is a large scale USCIS program to upgrade from paper-based operations to electronic systems. One important part of this series of changes is the phasing in of online immigration benefits filings. The following summary of progress in this area is provided for the benefit of MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers.

Online Filing / Tracking by Using an Account-Based System

The USCIS will be implementing an online system for filing and tracking applications and petitions submitted to the USCIS. This will feature online payment options, storage of data and evidence pertaining to multiple applications, and better case status tracking information. The system will utilize an account-based system, as described in our March 11, 2011 NewsBrief, USCIS Transformation Initiative for Online Electronic Filings.

Timing: Rollout Starts December 2011

The current timetable for the online filing aspect of Transformation is an initial release in December 2011, followed by further releases approximately every six months. Each release will contain improvements and/or expand the types of cases that can be filed electronically. The first release will allow for the filing of applications to extend and/or change nonimmigrant status (Form I-539).

First Cases: Visitors, Students, Exchange Visitors

As stated, the first online filings under the Transformation system will use Form I-539, which is used for requesting changes or extensions to many nonimmigrant statuses. The system initially will permit only those I-539s requesting a change and/or extension of B-1/B-2 visitor status, or changes of status or reinstatement of status to F-1 or M-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor.

Paper Filings Still in Place

All forms available for online filing will also be accepted in paper form in the initial stages. Cases that cannot be filed electronically will continue to follow the standard, paper-based procedures. The USCIS solicited extensive feedback from stakeholders, and the need to allow time for a transition was a key concern.

Technical Telephone Assistance Available

The USCIS will provide technical assistance via telephone as needed to facilitate the use of the online system. They also are working closely with various stakeholders in a continued effort to solicit feedback on these significant changes in the way cases are to be submitted. The USCIS WebSite will continue to provide updated information.


Past experience has shown that there are initial problems when systems change. The USCIS has worked hard to anticipate and address such problems by communicating closely with those who actually will use the new system. Retention of the paper-based system for all cases will allow those who are not immediately comfortable with the new system to adapt more gradually. It also will avoid any disruption or problems that would occur otherwise if and when technical issues have to be addressed. MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers will be updated regarding the USCIS Transition, as it is important to everyone who must apply for immigration benefits for him/herself, for family members, or for employees.

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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.