By Attorney Farhad Sethna © 2014
It has been over a year since the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) implemented its “Electronic Immigration System” (or ELIS). Under the ELIS system, the USCIS was hoping to allow users to file immigration applications online and pay fees online.
So far, the system allows only two immigration applications to be filed online: Form I-539, for Extension or Change of Status, and Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.
The ELIS system also accepts the USCIS immigrant fee, which must be paid before the USCIS will issue a “Green Card” for those individuals obtaining an immigrant visa from outside the United States.
While the USCIS’ intentions were good, the implementation is another story altogether.
First of all, despite being in operation for over a year, the system accepts only two applications and one filing fee. That is a far cry from the dozen of immigration applications which the USCIS requires and accepts.
Further, even though the applications may be filed online, additional paper documentation still has to be submitted through the regular courier or postal process. So much for e-filing!
With regard to the immigrant fee, attorneys and representatives cannot pay the fee on behalf of their client who may be overseas. Attorneys and representatives are specifically prevented from paying the immigrant visa fee. Why this should be the case is confounding: the USCIS has no problem accepting attorney checks for payment of fees with applications filed on paper via courier or postal service. It seems asinine to deny representatives and attorneys the right to pay their client’s immigrant visa fee online. Of course, the client can himself or herself set up an ELIS account and pay the fee online. However, this can be very difficult for clients in countries with limited access to computers, reliable electronic systems, reliable banking systems, and credit cards. In some cases, the client may be in a location which does not even have reliable electricity to power a computer or even internet access!
Another criticism is the way the system is structured. Instead of using an existing template “off the shelf”, system such as used by the U.S. federal district and appeals courts, (“PACER” or “CF/ECM”), ELIS offers its own system.
Rather than being a “streamlined-online account-based system that enhances customer service and the quality of USCIS processes”, ELIS is largely “USELIS” (sic). Until USCIS makes some significant structural and fundamental changes to ELIS, it will remain relatively user unfriendly and clearly illogical in its exclusion of attorneys and representatives.
USCIS has promised to change and upgrade ELIS for many months now, with no result. Stay tuned for further developments!
Copyright, Farhad Sethna, Attorney, 2014
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.