USCIS Challenges with Transformation

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently conceded that major problems have been encountered in the transition to an electronic filing system. Turning away from the current vendor, the USCIS is considering multiple vendors to address delays and escalating costs. Thus, after a slow start, 2013 may bring some developments related to the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS), the online portal for immigration benefits filings.

Background: Transformation and USCIS ELIS

The USCIS transformation initiative refers to efforts to overhaul the paper-based system. Key to this transformation is the online portal, ELIS, which launched May 22, 2012, after a series of delays, as reported to MurthyDotCom readers in USCIS Initiates Electronic Immigration Benefits System. However, under this initial launch, filings through USCIS ELIS are limited to a single, commonly used form. USCIS ELIS has not moved beyond the application to extend or change nonimmigrant status (form I-539), nor has it expanded to allow for the full range of cases and categories under the I-539.

Single Contractor and Unacceptable Costs

To date, the USCIS entrusted the development of ELIS to a single contractor, resulting in an unworkable timetable of two decades and costs estimated to exceed $3 billion. The USCIS has conceded that the transformation program, as it stands, is facing a crisis.

Multi-Contractor Approach for Hopeful Improvements

The current contract is ending in mid-2013. The USCIS plans to move forward with ELIS using a different contracting method. The revised system involves multiple contractors, in what is described as a more nimble and agile approach. More details on the cost overruns and efforts to get USCIS ELIS back on track can be found in a December 13, 2012 article.


We at the Murthy Law Firm are pleased that the USCIS is acknowledging the need to make improvements to better serve their clients who want to take advantage of the speed and accuracy that online services should provide. It is typical to face delays and problems in any transition to a new system and new technology. With the development of USCUS ELIS, these expected bumps in the road were magnified to the point of being unworkable without major revisions. MurthyDotCom readers will be updated on further developments regarding USCIS ELIS as it becomes available in the new year.

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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.