Citizenship and Immigration Services readies for electronic transformation

Friday - 12/9/2011, 10:40am EST

Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, USCIS

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By Jolie Lee
@jleewfed
Federal News Radio

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is on the cusp of transforming from a paper-based organization to an electronic one.

The agency, part of the Homeland Security Department, aims to roll out the first phase of an effort it calls Transformation, after missing an initial deadline of mid-December.

"What we will not do for our customers is roll out a product to meet a deadline, but not meet our high expectations for the quality of the program, so we are indeed delayed a bit," said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris.

Mayorkas said Transformation's first phase will be completed in the first quarter of 2012. He said the project is a "complex undertaking" that addresses a large amount of data — with 6 to 7 million applications a year — and a variety of immigration benefits.

"This agency has tried to transform twice before and has never gotten as far as where we are now," Mayorkas said.

USCIS is notifying the staff of 18,000 about the change and will give training on the new electronic-based system, he said.

Some people, "and I'm one of them," Myorkas said, are "very accustomed to reading a paper, and editing it on paper in front of me on my desk. The move from that to actually working on the screen, editing on the screen or analyzing files on the screen is a transition."

The first phase of the rollout focuses on the I-539 immigration application to extend a status. The rest of the rollout of Transformation will follow the chronology of the immigration cycle, Mayorkas said.

"The immigration benefit is limited in the first rollout ... But it's the foundational architecture," he said.

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