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USCIS ELIS: New Online Processing of Immigration Applications

On May 22, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the launch of an electronic immigration benefits system, USCIS ELIS. This marks the first phase of the agency’s transition from paper-based filings to a more modern online process for filing and adjudicating applications for immigration benefits. 

Electronic filings are not entirely new for USCIS. In 2005, USCIS began accepting e-Filing applications for limited immigration benefits including replacement of lost or stolen green cards, immigrant visa petitions, employment authorization documents and requests for premium processing. Under the current e-Filing system, applicants are required to mail USCIS supporting documentation to complete an application. USCIS ELIS is more convenient: applicants may upload supporting documentation for an application through a secure web site. This change should lead to faster processing times.

The scope of applications eligible for filing under USCIS ELIS is currently limited to requests for a change or extension of status (Form I-539) for qualified students, temporary visitors traveling for business or pleasure, and individuals receiving medical treatment. Over time, USCIS ELIS will include more applications. Instructions on registering for USCIS ELIS are at

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Douglas Hauer is a Mintz attorney and noted authority on the EB-5 investor visa program, which gives developers a path for securing capital for real estate, hospitality, and infrastructure projects. He's an essential resource for companies looking for financing from offshore sources.