Sounds Like a Step or Two Backward on E-Filings for USCIS

By David North on August 25, 2015

In the great leap forward to an all-electronic application and decision system, USCIS has just announced that five key applications, currently available for e-filing, must be filed on a paper form starting September 20.

I am not a high-tech person, but this sounds like a retreat to me. Their explanation is:

USCIS is transitioning to a new system called the Electronic Immigration System. The new system is faster, more secure and easier to upgrade and update. The forms being removed from the legacy e-Filing system will not be available immediately in the Electronic Immigration System, but there are plans to add them in the future.

When I was an advertising copywriter a long time ago we called a line like that an "agency comparative", in that the reader was never told what the "better soap" was better than.

Further, the "legacy e-Filing system" is something that arrived not in the days of yore, but only a couple of years ago; in fact, both are products of the same administration.

Will the new system have a catchy name? The current one is called ELIS, a play on Ellis Island.

The five forms involved in this change are widely used: I-131, application for a travel document (a form filed by non citizens who want a passport-like paper); I-140, immigrant petition for an alien worker; I-765, application for employment authorization; I-821, application for temporary protected status; and form I-907, request for premium processing service.

I must say that there is a certain evenhandedness about this selection of forms. The TPS application is filed by aliens, legal and illegal, who are from a country fractured by war, disease, or disaster (think Syria and Haiti), while the premium processing application is filed only by rich corporations or individuals who are paying extra to be served before the rest of us. It is nice to know that the humble refugee — and Microsoft and Infosys — are all briefly in the same boat (of the paper applications).

Frankly, premium processing, often deployed vis-a-vis the H-1B alien worker program, is a disgraceful curtsy to the already-privileged 1 percent, and should be abolished.