How Can Technology Tackle the Lengthy Immigration Process?

By Kevin Shaker, consultant

The United States Digital Service (USDS), founded in 2014 to provide innovative ideas to agencies around IT modernization, is aggressively attempting to streamline the immigration process by implementing electronic forms and doing away with paper-based applications. The goal is to shorten the lengthy process immigrants endure when applying for citizenship and make it less burdensome on government employees as they process immigration and green card applications.

USDS is now working with United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS agency that handles immigration and naturalization, to reform their application analysis process. The USDS team working on the project is more focused on developing technologies for IT and operations process redesign than pushing immigration policy through Congress. Their goal is to also collaborate with agency higher ups and end users to design and create automated systems that alleviate redundancy.

In the 10 years ending in 2015, USCIS built a billion-dollar Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) which digitalized applications and forms through its case management solution. USDS then worked with USCIS to digitize existing resident cards and naturalization forms. According to a recent NextGov article, 50 percent of naturalization and green card forms are currently processed electronically, but USDS and USCIS are trying to reach 80 percent in the next couple of years, and will likely aim higher after this goal is reached. This means that the system will check and approve these forms and USCIS employees can spend more time on other projects.

The USDS team also found that over 50 percent of green card applicants could renew their status without any complications, so a new system was built to automatically approve renewal applications, without involving further evaluation from government employees — which reduced processing time to just a few hours.

Capitalizing on the success of automated and paperless processing, the USDS and USCIS have turned more focus to the asylum process where there are substantial delays due to the high number of applicants, many of whom wait years for resolution. USDS Executive Director, Stephanie Neill, is currently building a scheduling platform combining spreadsheet data with a tool that helps write asylum approval and denial assessments.

If you have software or tools that digitalize and/or automate operations, you’ll want to reach out to Neill and her USCIS counterparts to see how your tool can be incorporated into their solution roadmap. You’ll need to articulate how it can reduce lengthy processing cycles while remaining proficient and thorough in the assessment process. Look to get involved now, as future groups at USCIS will look to follow the transformation.

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