US immigration launches electronic immigration system

US Citizenship and Immigration Services launched the first phase of its electronic immigration system, known as USCIS ELIS. The system was created to modernize and expedite the process for filing and adjudicating immigration applications. This marks the first step in its multi-year plan to shift the immigration department from paper to digital forms.

"We have launched the foundation for the web-based future of our agency and our immigration benefits system. USCIS ELIS will transform how we interact with our customers and how we manage the 6-7 million applications we receive each year," said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas.

USCIS provides immigration benefits to US visa-holders who are entitled to stay in the US on a temporary or permanent basis, including:
  • granting US citizenship to those who are eligible,
  • authorizing individuals to reside in the US on a permanent basis, and
  • providing immigrants with the eligibility to work in the US.
Eligible visa-holders can now create an online account in the USCIS ELIS system and apply online to extend the duration of their visit to the US or request other changes in their status. Eligible visa-holders include foreign citizens who travel to the US temporarily to study, conduct business, receive medical treatment, or visit on vacation.

The following visa holders can use ELIS to extend their visas: B-1, B-2, F-1, M-1, M-2. You can use ELIS to change your status if you want to receive one of the following visas: B-1 B-2, F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, M-2.

Previously immigrants have had to apply for visa extensions by mail, requiring USCIS officers to review paper files and ship documents between offices to complete their processing. This step toward digital forms and processing will help expedite the immigration process. USCIS said that the next steps in implementing the system will add more types of forms to the system, and, once completed, the system will process 6 to 7 million applications online every year.

Additional features of the new system include filing applications and paying fees online, shorter processing times, and the ability to update user profiles, receive notices, and respond to requests electronically. The system also includes tools to combat fraud and identify national security concerns.

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