U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched the first phase of USCIS ELIS, its electronic immigration benefits system. The system was created to modernize the process for filing and adjudicating immigration benefits. USCIS intends to gradually expand the program, adding form types and functions to the system, with the goal of ultimately covering filing and adjudication for all USCIS immigration benefits.

For the time being, the system only allows certain individuals to file Form I-539, Application to Extendor Change Nonimmigrant Status, online. Specifically, applicants who currently hold visitor (B-1/B-2) and certain student (F-1, M-1, or M-2) visas are able touse the online system to change status to B-1, B-2, F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1 or M-2. Additionally, applicants may also apply to reinstate F-1 or M-1 status using the online system. 

The benefits of using USCIS ELIS are numerous, and include the ability to file applications and pay fees online, shorter processing times, and the ability to update user profiles, receive notices, and respond to requests electronically. The system also includes tools to combat fraud and identify national security concerns. USCIS ELIS will also enable USCIS officers to review and adjudicate online filings from multiple agency locations across the country.

Although the online system will essentially streamline the process for adjudicating officers and eliminate the need for paper filings, the system does not eliminate any of the complexities present inthe former filing process. Online forms must still be completed with accuracy, the appropriate supporting documents must still be provided, and any errors ormissing documents can lead to delay or even denial of applications. As a result, the advice of counsel is strongly recommended before completing any online application. 

If you have any questions about USCIS ELIS or would like more information about filing to extend or change status, please contact Bill Flynn, Board Certified Immigration and Nationality Law attorney.