CIS Ombudsman Teleconference: USCIS Website Redesign, January 27, 2010
1. Please tell us about new features, functions or information that you made available on the new website for the first time?
USCIS Response: “Where to Start” Widget: There are several new features on the redesigned USCIS website. Beginning on the home page, our customers will see a “Where to Start” widget in the top left-hand corner. The “Where to Start” widget is for new users to identify their place in the immigration process and learn about relevant services and benefits available. For example, a customer can choose from the drop-down “Where to Start” menu: I am a Green Card holder and I want to renew my green card, or, I am a refugee and I want to know if I am authorized to work in the U.S. This “Where to Start” widget allows customers who are unsure about where to look for answers to their questions to tailor their search and quickly access the information they are seeking.
Customer Tools: The most-searched immigration topics and important customer tools, such as the office locator and online appointment scheduling, have been made available directly from the home page. We have also added a “Contact Us” page under the “About Us” tab on the top of the home page. This page contains all the various ways that a customer may contact USCIS.
National Trends Provided: The revised website provides a dashboard view of an individual’s case status as it relates to the major steps taken to process the most common application types. It provides a contextual overview of national processing volumes and trends.
Visa Number Information: USCIS added a spreadsheet that displays the number of individuals who are awaiting visa numbers for employment-based preference cases. A link to this inventory can be found on the right of the Green Card landing page. Contained in the spreadsheet is information regarding principal and dependent I-485s pending at the Nebraska Service Center and the Texas Service Center. It also contains the pre-adjudicated cases for which a visa number is not available and cases for which visa numbers are current but are still in process. In other words, it contains all employment-based I-485s currently pending at the two service centers as of December 12, 2009.
This spreadsheet is a feature that our stakeholders had requested. We appreciate suggestions, such as this one, from our customers and take the suggestions we receive into consideration. As a customer-service oriented agency, feedback from our customers, not just feedback about the website, but about all our services, is very important to us, and we would like customers to know that we do listen.
The Beacon: We’ve recently launched a blog on our site. The Beacon, as we’ve named the blog, was officially launched on March 10, 2010 as an additional channel to help us communicate with our stakeholders about pertinent topics in immigration. Among other items, we currently have on The Beacon information for those affected by the earthquake in Haiti, their families, and those providing assistance.
New Banner Pause Controls: In February users gained the ability to scroll through the homepage banner at their own pace. The banner now has play and pause controls.
2. Are there any additional features that you plan to add over the next year?
USCIS Response: Yes, we will be launching a few new features on the website which include:
Events Calendar: USCIS events will be published to this new function.
American Customer Satisfaction Index Online Survey: This recognized measurement tool will randomly pop-up and solicit feedback about our website. USCIS will use this feedback to better respond to the needs of our web users.
Improve Our Ability to Insert Graphic Image Throughout the Site: This will result in using more graphics, charts and other objects on the site, enhancing the user experience.
In May 2010, we will begin to allow customers to submit service requests online. Currently, to submit a service request, a customer must call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC). While customers will still be able to submit a service request through the NCSC, they will also be able to create their own service request through the USCIS website for certain forms that are outside normal processing times.
Additionally, USCIS will be responding to the Federal Open Government mandate. As required, USCIS will continue to identify relevant data and make it available via the website in easily downloadable formats.
3. Are there currently any website pages that you are actively revising?
USCIS Response: We continue to revise pages as necessary. One of the goals with this new website was for it to be dynamic and continuously reviewed and updated. We recently updated the “Emergency Travel” page which provides information on how to obtain emergency advance parole. We are adding a “We Listen” page, which will provide answers to some of the questions and suggestions received by the USCIS webmaster.
We are working on creating a page pertaining to student reinstatements. Our previous website did not contain this important information for international students. After hearing from students and school officials, and speaking with personnel from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we decided to draft a page on the reinstatement of student status.
The Spanish version of our website continues to evolve. As with the English site, New Media is regularly updating the Spanish site with new information, updates, press releases, and other changes.
4. If a user finds a website link that does not work, how should they report these problems to USCIS? Should users direct suggestions for the possible addition of new content to this same contact point, or to someone else?
USCIS Response: Problems experienced with the website, such as broken links, should be reported to the webmaster. The webmaster’s email address is email@example.com. A link to this contact information can also be found on the bottom of every page, by clicking on the link that says, “Contact Us.”
Suggestions regarding new content may also be made to the webmaster. If you want to make suggestions regarding ways to improve customer service, you may contact the Ombudsman Liaison Unit. The Ombudsman Liaison Unit’s email address, OLUInquiries@dhs.gov, can be used for inquiries about immigration-related topics or subjects and to identify systematic questions or problems within USCIS.
5. Customers inform the Ombudsman that despite the addition of national processing volume and trend information on the new website, that they still have great difficulty determining how long it will take for their particular case to be completed. We note that customers may enter their receipt numbers on the page “Check My Case Status,” and in response are advised about which of seven possible processing stages their case is at -- but is there any way that USCIS can, through its website, provide customers a typical estimated processing time to completion for cases that are the indicated stage?
USCIS Response: While every case is different, by determining how long a case normally takes to process at a particular office, an applicant is able to determine how long his or her case should take to complete. Applicants should keep in mind that any request for evidence or request to reschedule an appointment will delay the processing of his or her case. For example, if the applicant receives a request for evidence and responds to that request 30 days after it was received with the all required evidence, that case will usually take at least a month longer to complete.
Because of the intricacies of each adjudication and the varying factors in every case, it would not be feasible to provide an individual estimate of when a case will be completed. Also, there are occasions where information is discovered during the adjudication process that requires additional reviews and longer processing times.
6. How often is the website’s “Check My Case Status” information updated?
USCIS Response: USCIS updates “Check My Case Status” information on a daily basis. However, an individual’s case may not necessarily be updated each day. While data is uploaded into the “Check My Case Status” system every day, an individual’s case information will only be updated when there is a reportable change to his or her case status – for example, a request for evidence was sent, a decision was made, or a card was produced.
7. The Ombudsman understands that USCIS intends to add the capability for customers to prepare an SRMT on their case directly through the USCIS website. Is this still in the planning, and do you have a timetable for launching this feature?
USCIS Response: USCIS intends to release this feature on our website in May 2010.
8. A caller asked why USCIS eliminated the “Portfolio” button that was on the “Check My Case Status” page on the previous version of the USCIS website.
USCIS Response: This feature is still accessible to our customers, but it has been renamed. Clicking on the link that says, “Sign in to my account” will bring you to the page previously known as your “Portfolio.”
In an effort to improve the usability of our website, USCIS renamed many of our links to better reflect the function that those links serve and the language that people use. For example, the “Infopass” link has been renamed, “Make an Appointment” and the “Civil Surgeon” link is now labeled, “Find a Doctor.”
9. A caller was concerned that after a response to a Request for Evidence (RFE) is received, Check My Case Status still reflects that the case is in the “RFE” stage.
USCIS Response: USCIS thanks our customers for this feedback. We have heard this concern from several applicants and are assessing whether cases in which an RFE response has been received should still be considered to be in the “RFE” stage.
We currently have case status responses available to reflect a response has been received for an RFE; there are technical issues in displaying that response in Check My Case Status. We are aware of this issue and resolving it during this fiscal year is a priority for our Information Technology Office.
10. Customers requested that USCIS create a “printer friendly” version of a case status.
USCIS Response: We have received this request from several stakeholders and are currently researching the most efficient way to implement a “printer friendly” version of an individual’s case status and other pages as well. We are currently working on this issue and hope to have a solution soon. However, one of the things we have learned through our research is that some new printers and browsers have a “printer friendly” function for web pages already included.
11. Where is the I-485 inventory spreadsheet located on the website?
USCIS Response: The I-485 Employment-Based Inventory Statistics can be found by clicking on the “Green Card” topic link on the homepage. A link to the inventory can be found on the right of the Green Card landing page. Also, if you search for “I-485 inventory” using the search feature on the website, it will be the first link that appears.
12. Information about what editions of a form may be used on the “Forms” page is confusing. Some forms say, “Previous Versions Accepted,” while other say, “Prior Editions Accepted,” and others just have a date. It would be help if customers knew what previous versions of the form may be accepted.
USCIS Response: Thank you for this observation. The web publishing team is currently working with the appropriate offices in USCIS to determine which versions of forms are still acceptable for use. They are also clarifying and standardizing the language used on the forms pages that identifies these previous additions. Until this issue is resolved, USCIS suggests that customers who need clarification call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 for assistance.
13. A caller stated that the I-129 and I-765 filing chart is very confusing. Why can’t the form be filed at one location?
USCIS Response: USCIS is moving towards centralizing filing locations by having applications and petitions submitted to a Lockbox rather than to various offices. The process of centralizing the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, has already begun. The change of filing location is part of an overall effort to transition the intake of some benefit forms from Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities. Centralizing form and fee intake to a Lockbox environment allows USCIS to provide customers with more efficient and effective initial processing of applications and fees.
On December 7, 2009, USCIS implemented the first step of the implementation of this process. Most I-765s that are received at Service Centers are forwarded to the Lockbox for receipting and processing. On February 24, 2010, USCIS announced publicly the new filing locations for most I-765 applications.
Because the I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, is used for many different nonimmigrant categories, its filing is more complex as it is processed at different locations (depending on the reason for filing). USCIS has tried to make the filing locations more readable by placing the information in a chart. We will continue to improve the format of this information so that is it easier for our customers to understand.
14. Can information about how to request expedited processing be posted on the “Forms” page? Can a link to the expedite criteria be added to the “Check My Case Status” page?
USCIS Response: This is an excellent suggestion to provide a link to the expedited processing information on the “Forms” page. We will implement this request with our next webpage update. Unfortunately, because of the “Check My Case Status” page is created using a different web program, we are unable to provide links on that page. We will, however, research similar means to link the relevant information between the pages.
15. Why can’t the status of some forms, such as the I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence,” be viewed on “Check My Case Status?” Also, the receipt notice that an applicant receives when he/she files the I-751 has a receipt number that is different than the receipt number that appears on the biometrics appointment notice for the I-751. Why?
USCIS Response: Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We understand the confusion that this may cause for our customers and we hope to have this issue resolved as we move to modernize our systems under the Transformation initiative.
When a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence, is received, it is placed into a system known as the Marriage Fraud Amendment System (MFAS) and unfortunately we cannot schedule a biometrics appointment from this system. Therefore, when the biometrics appointment is issued, it is issued through a separate system which results in a new receipt number. This system also interfaces with “Check My Case Status” and is the reason customers are able to use the receipt number provided on the biometrics appointment to check their case status online. Customers cannot check their case status with the receipt number provided on the I-751 receipt notice.
16. When using the search engine, it is difficult to find the page that has information on how to locate a doctor (civil surgeon).
USCIS Response: Information on how to find a doctor to conduct your medical exam for immigration benefits can be found on our homepage from the link “Find a Doctor.” We have also improved our web search feature. If you type “find a doctor” in the search box, the doctor locator page and the information on medical exams will be the first two links that appear.
17. How do you correct an incorrect case status on “Check My Case Status?” Would USCIS consider putting an alert button on “Check My Case Status” so that an applicant who has incorrect information displayed can notify USCIS?
USCIS Response: If you notice an error with your information in “Check My Case Status,” please contact the webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will correct the information in a timely manner. While your suggestion to have an “alert” button on the “Check My Case Status” page is a very good one, we will not be able to implement it at this time.
18. How can I check the status of an I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility, online?
USCIS Response: Beginning on January 31, 2010, all I-601s that are filed in the United States are filed through the Lockbox and the Lockbox provides a receipt notice with a receipt number. This receipt number may be used to check the status of your case online, as you would with other applications or petitions, by using the “Check My Case Status” feature on our website, www.uscis.gov.
If you filed your I-601 prior to January 31, 2010 with a USCIS local office, please make an Infopass appointment to inquire about the status of your case. Infopass appointments may be made at http://infopass.uscis.gov/.
If you have filed your I-601 at a U.S. Consulate in Mexico, you may check the status of your case be sending an email to email@example.com. Please be sure to include your name, date of birth, and “A” number (if you have one) in any email correspondence that you send.
If you have filed your I-601 at any other U.S. consulate, you may contact the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the consulate where you submitted your I-601. All overseas offices have a P.O. Box and an email address where inquiries can be sent. This information may be found on the USCIS homepage at www.uscis.gov by clicking on “Find a USCIS Office.”
19. Will USCIS consider accepting online payments for application fees?
USCIS Response: USCIS concurs that an expansion of electronic payment filing would be advantageous to applicants, petitioners, and their representatives. We are also in agreement that having the ability to pay all fees electronically would enhance the service offered to the public. We believe the best process to achieve this is through the new systems being developed as part of our Transformation initiative. The current system accepts online payments only for certain applications with some restrictions. To view a list of applications that USCIS is currently accepting with online payment, please visit the “Forms” section of www.uscis.gov and click on the link “Forms Currently Available for e-Filing and Form-Specific e-Filing Instructions.”