USCIS Enters the Digital Age

In an effort to modernize and systemize immigration policy, USCIS recently launched the USCIS Policy Manual Page. The Policy Manual page will be split into three phases: the first phase is information on USCIS Citizenship and Naturalization policies — following phases will encompass further updates to different areas of immigration law.

USCIS’s new Policy Manual will, at some point, take the place of the current Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM). The rejuvenated Policy Manual will digitally streamline most aspects of immigration policy, including policy updates, immigration forms, updated and extended table of contents, and URLs to INA and CFR sections. USCIS will also supply dates for when updates have occurred on the Policy Manual page, which can be found here.

USCIS is making progress towards e-filing and digitizing its data and adjudications. Last May, USCIS introduced its Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) program. The system was created to enable immigration benefit seekers and legal representatives to create an account to file for benefits, and extend visas, online. The program is now moving towards welcoming other visa processes.

Today, immigration law is like a piece of Swiss cheese: if the body of the cheese represents the law, the larger holes are filled in with regulations and the small holes with memos from USCIS Directors. This still leaves some situations unaddressed or ripe for litigation and denials.

The Takeaway

Currently, all the resources for naturalization, laws, regulations, memos and AFM, have been consolidated in the policy manual. We hope highly complex areas, such as H1B visa and L visa filings and adjudications can be consolidated in the policy manual, offering the filer the assurance that all the legal resources related to the filing have been exhausted. This will lend transparency to adjudications and certainty to the law. Dare I dream?

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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USCIS Creates a New Online Filing System

Today U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched the first phase of its Electronic Immigration System, known as USCIS ELIS. The system has been created to enable immigration benefit seekers and legal representatives to create an account to file for benefits online.

Who is eligible to file online?

In this first phase, individuals can establish a USCIS ELIS account and apply online to extend or change their non-immigrant status for certain visa types, or file Form I-539. Eligible individuals include foreign citizens who have traveled to the US temporarily to study, conduct business, receive medical treatment, or visit on vacation. You can use USCIS ELIS to extend your status if you are a B-1, B-2, F-1, M-1 or M-2; change your status if want to become a B-1, B-2, F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1 or M-2; or reinstate your status if you were a F-1 or M-1.

If you are a student on F-1 visa…

Students on F-1 visa may have a date-specific visa, which means there is a completion date and a start date to their course of study. These students are eligible to file and extend their status on USCIS ELIS.

If you are a student and admitted for duration of status, then you should contact your Designated School Official (DSO) to extend your student status. Your I-94 will give the end date as D/S, in which case you cannot change your status on USCIS ELIS.

If you are a student on an M-1 visa, you cannot change your status to an F-1 visa.

If you want to reinstate status, and you were an F-1 or M-1 visa holder, then both you and your spouse can reinstate status on USCIS ELIS, provided you are not subject to any immigration bars and have not overstayed your visa. In other words, you can only reinstate your status if you meet the F-1 criteria for eligibility status under the applicable sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Why use USCIS ELIS?

According to USCIS, this online account will allow you to interact with USCIS; receive email and text notifications; obtain information in real-time; submit electronic evidence; use a US credit card; be represented by an attorney or accredited representative; be assisted by an online setup assistant; and obtain real-time case status information.

To create an account:
Log onto www.uscis.gov/uscis-elis, enter your email, choose a password, answer personal identity questions, and obtain a secure pin number.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

This blog is not intended as legal advice.

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