Update On E-filing
Applications That Can Be E-filed
How to E-file
The instructions at www.uscis.gov on how to e-file are thorough and even address common mistakes and frequently asked questions. The general online process involves setting up a user account, completing the desired form according to the form-specific instructions, submitting payment online, and printing the Confirmation Receipt. The online instructions explain each of these steps in detail, and also provide form-specific instructions. Applications can be e-filed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Up to 20 partially completed applications can be saved in a user account at one time. Submitted applications cannot be saved in a user account, but can and should be printed and saved to a computer or disk at the time of submission.
Proof of Filing
One of the primary benefits of e-filing is that when an application is successfully e-filed, the system automatically generates a printable Confirmation Receipt that provides proof and date of filing. A Form I-797, the regular paper receipt, will also be issued for each application that is e-filed. Moreover, within 48 to 72 hours of e-filing an application, application status information can be accessed on the "Case Status Online" system also available at www.uscis.gov.
Not surprisingly, supporting documents are still required even for e-filed forms. All supporting documents must be submitted by mail. The form-specific instructions indicate which supporting documents are required for each form and the Confirmation Receipt for each successfully submitted application instructs applicants where to mail such documents. Applications will not be processed unless and until all required supporting documents are received.
Photographs and Fingerprints
The photograph and fingerprint requirements for e-filed applications vary from form to form. For example, some applications require that paper photographs be submitted with the supporting documents; others require that applicants call the National Service Center to make an appointment to go to a USCIS Application Support Center for pictures and prints; and still others instruct that applicants will be sent an appointment notice for Biometrics. The website provides a "Photographs and Fingerprints" link that lists the varying requirements by form. Also, the form-specific instructions detail photograph and fingerprint requirements for each form and the Confirmation Receipt further instructs applicants regarding photograph and fingerprint requirements. Those who are required to go to an Application Support Center must bring a hard copy of the e-filed application and the Confirmation Receipt to their appointment.
One of the original limitations with the e-file system when it was first introduced has been resolved. While the system first only accepted electronic funds transfer from a bank checking or savings account, it now accepts credit card and debit card payments. This ability to pay for e-filed applications by credit card undoubtedly makes e-filing a preferable filing method for some, as it is still not possible to pay for paper applications by credit card. The instructions warn users repeatedly that if they mistakenly pay for an application more than once, extra payments will not be refunded. Those who are applying for fee waivers still cannot take advantage of e-filing, but must instead continue to file paper applications.
Should You E-file?
Perhaps because it is not yet possible to e-file many of the most common applications filed by CLINIC affiliate programs, most of the programs I spoke to did not yet use e-filing on a regular basis. A few who have tried it stated that initially navigating through the process was a bit onerous. Once that process is done, however, e-filing does provide some significant benefits, including that it allows for immediate filing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provides immediate proof of filing in the form of a Confirmation Receipt. The ability to immediately file an application can be especially important in cases where an applicant needs to get an application filed right away in order to maintain status. Further, because the e-filing system now accepts credit card payments, it can also be a great alternative to paper filing for those who do not have the actual funds available to pay the high application fees but do have a credit card that they can use for payment.
Jill Sheldon, Esq. is the Southeast Field Office Attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) in Miami. A 1999 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, Ms. Sheldon also previously worked for three years as a CLINIC detention attorney in both Pennsylvania and Florida, representing detained immigrants before DHS, EOIR and the BIA. As CLINIC's Southeast Field Office Attorney, Ms. Sheldon is responsible for conducting trainings in immigration law throughout the Sourtheast region. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.