AILA 2012 Conference Update: Electronic Immigration System

During a session at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Annual Conference in Nashville, TN last week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided initial feedback regarding the recently launched Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). Discussed here for our readers are the preliminary USCIS experiences with ELIS as well as FAQs recently issued on ELIS.

Background: May 22, 2012 Launch

ELIS became available May 22, 2012. This online filing system is part of an ongoing transformation of the USCIS. Information on ELIS and the limited group of cases currently eligible for filing via ELIS was provided in our May 25, 2012 NewsBrief, USCIS Initiates Electronic Immigration Benefits System.

USCIS Initial ELIS Experiences

ELIS was one of the topics covered at the AILA 2012 Annual Conference as part of an overview of service center operations. Several Murthy Law Firm attorneys were in attendance for this informative session. Donald Neufeld, Associate Director, Service Center Operations, gave an overview of the current programs and initiatives at the service centers, including ELIS.

In the few weeks that have elapsed since the inception of ELIS, the USCIS has received several hundred applications through this system. These cases are within the allowed categories of changes or extension of certain nonimmigrant statuses (B, F, M, and J). One of the initial cases experienced a processing time of only ten days, even including issuance of a request for evidence (RFE).

USCIS Suggestions for ELIS Users

The purpose of ELIS is to make case processing more efficient and, thereby, to reduce processing times. USCIS officers can adjudicate the application within the ELIS system and can issue any RFE directly to the applicant.

The USCIS warned that, in order to take full advantage of the faster processing via ELIS, an applicant must elect to receive correspondence by eMail, otherwise, correspondence such as RFEs will be sent through the U.S. Postal Service. Recently issued FAQs indicate that the communication preference is automatically set to U.S. postal mail. The applicant must actively change the selection to designate that s/he chooses to receive correspondence via eMail.

For more information on the USCIS FAQs, please visit the USCIS WebSite.

FAQs: File and Make a Payment

The FAQs instruct the user to click “save” upon completion of the application. If a user does not begin drafting an application within 30 days of creating an ELIS account, the USCIS ELIS account will be deleted and it will be necessary for the user to create a new account. The user can file a benefit request, upload evidence, submit payment, and manage her/his account through ELIS.

The account can be used for several benefits, so the user does not have to reenter biographic information each time. If a user cannot upload evidence, s/he should apply for the benefit using the paper application process, which continues to be available.

FAQs: Who Can Create an ELIS Account?

Those who can create ELIS accounts and submit applications online are: individual applicants; attorneys and accredited representatives filing on behalf of their clients; parents of minors under the age of 14; and legal guardians for severely handicapped individuals. There are restrictions disallowing the creation of accounts by notarios, consultants, and disbarred attorneys. ELIS is only available in English at this time. At this time, ELIS only works with the web browsers Microsoft Internet Explorer, versions 6 and higher, and Mozilla Firefox, versions 3 and higher.


We at the Murthy Law Firm were happy to hear the favorable report regarding processing times using the ELIS system. The particular types of cases that can be filed under ELIS are not eligible for premium processing. Therefore, if ELIS can provide consistently swift case processing times, this will be a vast improvement over the current paper based system. The volume of filings discussed was limited, however. We always note that with any new system, particularly those involving technology, system glitches often must be resolved. Individuals filing cases via ELIS should make every effort to sufficiently file ahead of time to allow for technical problems that could arise. We at the Murthy Law Firm will continue to share useful information and update MurthyDotCom readers regarding the USCIS transition to the ELIS system.

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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.