As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues working toward a paperless future, the agency has already completed online filing systems for several documents and, and is touting successes with its online account system.

Speaking at Gov’s 2020 Tech Focus: Trends to Keep Your Eye On produced by GovLoop, Jeffrey Levy, Deputy Chief of Digital Services at USCIS,  said the agency is developing ways to improve immigrant experience.  He also maintained that slowly eliminating paper submissions reduces stress for everybody involved.

“No one really argues that we should not put forms online…and now of course we have the 21st Century IDEA Act requiring everybody to do this,” Levy said.

Required fields, for example, stop users from submitting incomplete documents, he said. In the past, USCIS would have to manually detect this issue, send a request for a correction to the user, and wait for the completed documents in the mail. Now, the users will be notified immediately and can quickly correct the document.

The paperless transition has also eliminated the possibility of damage to or misplacement of important files.  By way of anecdote, Levy told of a USCIS employee that put a case file on top of their car, forgot about it, and drove off. With the digital transformation, some of that human error is eliminated, he said.

“[Immigrants are] trying to change their lives for the better. This is critically important. It’s a high stress situation for them. To be able to give them an immediate response at least lets them know that they’re off and running,” Levy said.

Levy also praised the convenience of USCIS’s online accounts for immigrants. With an online account, launched in 2017, immigrants can now:

  • Send secure messages to Federal officials;
  • Access their complete case history;
  • File forms;
  • View copies of digital notices; and
  • Receive messages via email or text.
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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.