The USCIS announced that, on September 22, the agency "will launch a vastly improved public Web site to help customers navigate the immigration system and remain up-to-date regarding their case status." See the USCIS Fact Sheet dated August 11 at http://www.shusterman.com/pdf/redesign.pdf
Almost 10 years ago, the INS redesigned its website. We were very critical. See our review entitled "INS's New Website Emphasizes Content Over Form(s)" at http://shusterman.com/sep99.html#6
We pointed out that after spending millions of dollars and employing a great many experts, the INS website did not even allow readers to access as many INS forms as our website. The INS Webmaster responded to our review on September 20, 1999. See http://www.shusterman.com/beyer.html
Subsequently, the INS established the best U.S. immigration website on the Internet.
However, several years later, the INS again redesigned its website, and in the process, eliminated many of the most helpful features of the site.
Since the USCIS is once again redesigning it's website, we wish to make a few suggestions:
1. Please do something to improve the search engine.
Our website has more links to the USCIS website (several hundred) than any other site on the web. So we empathize with readers who tell us that it is extremely difficult to find information on the USCIS website. For example, take a look at the first link above, the USCIS Fact Sheet dated August 11. We could not find this on the USCIS website, so we scanned in the Fact Sheet and posted it on our website.
Example: What if someone is interested in L status? Whether they type in "L", "L status", "L visa petition" into the USCIS search engine, they get the following answer: "404 - Requested Page Not Found on Site".
The USCIS search engine, even when it is working, leaves a lot to be desired.
2. Make the website easier to navigate.
Your fact sheet lists the following customer comments about the present USCIS website. It is "hard to navigate", "overwhelming" and "frustrating". That's because the layout of the website is illogical. For example, let's say someone is searching for information about L status. How do they find this information at www.uscis.gov?
The website has the following buttons near the top of the page:
* Services & Benefits
* Immigration Forms
* Laws & Regulations
* About USCIS
* Education & Resources
* Press Room
Where would one find information about L status? Probably under "Services & Benefits". Clicking this button leads one to a four-paragraph general introduction which ends with the following guidance: "For information about a particular immigration benefit or service, please select the appropriate button on the menu to your left."
The menu on the left contains a total of 17 different items, none of them clearly relating to L status or temporary visa categories. So we decided to click the "How do I Customer Guides". This page lists six different categories of guides, one of them being "Nonimmigrants". Fine for an attorney, but does the average immigrant realize that the word "Nonimmigrants" relates to temporary visa categories like the L category? Probably not.
However, let's assume that the reader clicks on "Nonimmigrants". This leads to a page which contains three links, the most appropriate being "How do I Change to Another Nonimmigrant Status?" Click on this link, and you are transported to a three-page PDF file. The file lists some of the 40 types of nonimmigrant categories, but provides precious little information about any of these categories. For instance, with reference to the L category, the document states "L-1A or L-1B Intracompany Transfer". Not very helpful, is it?
By this time, the person has probably given up on the USCIS website and found all the information that they need to know about L status on our website at http://shusterman.com/toc-temp.html#3m
And where did we get all this great information about L status? Confession: We copied and pasted it from the old INS website! (which leads us to our next suggestion...)
3. Bring Back the Old INS Website
Or at least make the new USCIS website as useful as the old INS website was. For example, the USCIS used to include four charts which relate to derivative citizenship. And we linked to all four nationality charts. For example, we linked to the chart for "Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship for Children Born Abroad in Wedlock" at http://www.uscis.gov/propub/ProPubVAP.jsp dockey=6f3ca27ff6c196d35e87dae2221deee9
Every few weeks, the URL would change and we would have to repair the link. We wrote to the USCIS webmaster about this problem, but we never received a reply. Now, it seems that the USCIS has removed all four nationality charts from their website. Why? We have no idea.
We could write to the USCIS webmaster, but what's the use?
4. What's With the Long URLs?
Check out the following web page:
What's this, you may ask? It's USCIS' page regarding "Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card)". Why is the web address (aka, the URL) so long? Maybe there is a reason for the long URLs on the USCIS website, but we don't know what it is.
5. Help Immigrants and Their Employers Find Good Legal Advice
The USCIS website wisely advises persons not to use the services of notarios or "immigration consultants".
However, it does little to advise immigrants where to find knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorneys. USCIS' "Finding Legal Advice" page contains eight links: To the websites of the American Bar Association and the National Organization of Bar Counsel and even to EOIR's list of "Free Legal Service Providers". However, when one clicks on this last link, the list indicates that the services of these attorneys are not necessarily free, and what's more, this list is for persons in removal proceedings who cannot afford an attorney. Not exactly the list that an employer who wants to submit a PERM application or a permanent resident who wants to apply for naturalization needs.
A long time ago, we suggested to the USCIS that since four states (California, Florida, Texas and North Carolina) certify certain attorneys as Specialists in Immigration Law, why not link to the lists of these specialists. On November 6, 2006, Alfonso Aguilar, the Chief of USCIS' Office of Citizenship told us that he would do so. See http://shusterman.com/pdf/certsp1106.pdf
We have been waiting for this to occur for nearly three years. Please surprise us, and add this to the new USCIS website!