We can joke about the inefficiencies of various government agencies all we want but if you’re one of Americas 41 million people that have been through the pain of immigration you’ll know just how ridiculous some of the hoops you have to jump through are. And if you’re unlucky enough to take one of the more complex visas like I did you’ll have a fair amount of loathing too.
But, thanks to a new plan issued by the White House, all of that could be about to change.
A new document with the extremely catchy title of “Modernizing & Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System For The 21st Century” outlines a plan to not only streamline the whole operation, but reduce the amount of paperwork required with various technologies. Not only that but the agencies are now looking to collaborate and talk one another by updating various computer systems.
Joking aside while it might feel twenty years too late this is a far bigger deal than you might realize. Many of the reasons and restrictions in a government adopting technology is due to the level of security (or lackthereof) in certain applications. This new report is a great testament to some of the advances in information security we’ve seen in the past few years as well a great way to illustrate how much trust the general public is placing in online systems.
Four years ago when I first submitted my immigration paperwork I had to submit a wealth of information comprising of government forms, photographs, printed bank statements and bills, as well as a huge number of other documents to provide evidence of my relationship with my soon to be wife. Among all of that paperwork was the first of many checks. To this day, I still have to keep paper copies of just about everything to support my future immigration cases.
That first packet, weighing in excess of 10 lbs, was followed by another packet and more fees a few months later as well as countless phone calls to schedule things like medical appointments and interviews, and even making another payment for the interview itself.
Almost all of the information I had to give and phone calls I had to make could have been processed electronically and the same can be said for the many checks and money orders I’ve sent over the past few years. It is an immensely antiquated system that adds time and frustration into what is already a very stressful process, and has been in dire need of an update for many years.
Thankfully for future immigrants this report aims to do just that. The USCIS now aims to allow electronic filing of some of the documents, as well as allow visas and interviews to be paid for and scheduled online. Even bigger news for people on family / fiancee based visas, is that some of the affidavit documents can be scanned in to avoid the manual data entry part.
This follows on from some other improvements made earlier this year where Green Card holders could file their renewal paperwork online.
Not only will this make the process far more efficient, but it’ll make it more secure by reducing the risk of mail and document theft.
With the DHS and USCIS looking to other agencies to improve the information sharing side we could start seeing far more collaboration for government agencies that extends to things like social security, and even patent applications.
The biggest news here is that this should start to reduce overall processing times for most cases. A quick look at the processing times page for visas, shows timelines stretching anywhere between ninety days, and four years!
To many immigrants such as myself, all of this should be music to our ears as we finally see a very antiquated system finally be brought up to date, and realize that the days of submitting hoards of paper to prove something they should already know, may soon be over.