If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.”-Professor Irwin Corey

We’ve been hearing about it for a while now.  We at first thought, oh no, what if it happens? Will everything change? Will I have to learn a new system? What among my assumptions will have to be thrown out?  “What we call ‘Progress’ is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.”-HavelockEllis

Then we stopped hearing so much about it. So we thought, nah, nothing is going to change. Yes, the system is a mess, but it’s our mess. We know and have learned to live with it.

Face it, we all hate change.  We may pretend otherwise, but having to learn something new, and figure out a new set of workarounds for the inevitable issues and a new way of addressing things we haven’t thought about in years, is daunting.  We don’t want it.  “The only sense that is common in the long run, is the sense of change-and we all instinctively avoid it.”-E.B. White

But now we know it’s coming. In fact, the first piece of it is here.  It was called Transformation when it was being discussed in the abstract.  But now it’s real, and it’s called  ELIS – the Electronic Immigration System

It’s USCIS’ new system for receiving and processing applications and petitions, and it’s going to change the way we prepare and submit those filings.  It started May 22, 2012  for certain actions on an I-539 for nonimmigrants in B, F, J or M status.  Now, nonimmigrants directly, or through their attorneys, are able to apply to change or extend status in a web-based environment, upload scanned documents, submit applications, and pay on line.

The system does not have an interface with popular immigration forms processing and case management systems–yet; USCIS wants to get the platform stable and working before releasing code to software vendors and developers. However, this initial release does have a number of features that look friendly to attorneys and their clients, including the ability to send notifications to both attorney and client at separate email addresses. USCIS is looking for customer feedback on this first release in order to make adjustments and improvements, and they are committed to an agile development plan that targets the release of new form types in four-to-six month cycles.

Obviously, if the system works, it will have an incredible impact on the way that we practice immigration law, and can lead to costs savings and efficiencies that result from a move from a paper-based system to a fully electronic system.  The only way we’re going to figure out whether it works, where it has kinks and glitches, where it needs tweaks, and what practitioners need to do to transform the way that we practice, is to use it.  USCIS wants to hear your feedback, and so does AILA.  When you send comments to USCIS at uscis-elis-feedback@uscis.dhs.gov, let AILA know as well by copying reports@aila.org.

Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix.”-Christina Baldwin

We might even like this.