The newly revamped USCIS website (www.uscis.gov) went online on September 22.
It is definitely an improvement over the prior website.
For example, it is geared to the person who needs information about immigration. On the left side of the screen appear the words "Where to Start". This allows you to click the arrow next to the words "I am..." and provides you will 21 choices ranging from "U.S. citizen" and ending with "Educator or Volunteer". Below are the words "I want to..." Depending on which of the 21 categories you chose under "I am...", the choices under "I want to..." will vary accordingly.
If you choose "I am a visitor/nonimmigrant", you will be given seven choices in the "I want to..." category. Some of these categories allow you to learn more about becoming a permanent resident through investment, employment, the lottery or as a religious worker, but nothing about becoming a permanent resident through a family member. This is obviously an oversight which we hope will be quickly corrected.
Suppose you choose "I want to find out about becoming a permanent resident (green card holder) through employment". You must click the green button which states "Get Results". This brings you to a page entitled "Green Card Through a Job". A short article about employment-based immigration appears in the middle of the page. Over to the left, there are links to web pages on the following topics: "Green Card Through a Job Offer", "Green Card Through Investment", "Green Card Through Self-Petition" and "Green Card Through Special Categories of Jobs" as well as links to other ways to obtain a green card and green card processes and procedures.
The right side of the screen contains a column entitled "More Information" with the following
subtopics: "Forms", "Tools - Before I File", "Tools - After I File", "Other Cases Services",
"Other USCIS Links" and "External Links".
All in all, the new USCIS website appears to contain more information than did the old website.
Further, it is arranged in a fashion which is much more user-friendly. We link to the new website
from our "USCIS" page at http://shusterman.com/ins.html#1
Another significant improvement to the new website is that there is a Spanish-language version of the site. It is plain to see, however, that many pages which are available in English are not available in Spanish. For example, the Spanish "Soy..." option contains only four possibilities as opposed to the 21 choices for the English "I am...". Hopefully, this will change over time. We link to the Spanish version of the website from http://shusterman.com/cis_espanol.html
The website allows users to get e-mail updates, text messages on their smart phones regarding the status of their cases, has an RSS feed and multimedia. I watched a video entitled "Becoming a U.S. Citizen: An Overview of the Naturalization Process". As former INS Citizenship Attorney (1976-82), I was impressed by the quality of the information presented.
We link to the page which allows persons to create an account in order to check their case status and to learn the current processing times from our "USCIS" page at http://shusterman.com/ins.html#2
Not everyone is impressed with the new website. When I requested a short evaluation of the
site from a member of my staff, I received this following:
"The main change to the USCIS website is the layout. The contrast in colors is pleasing to the eye and adds the illusion that the site is that much more organized. What is much more organized is the homepage. The topics that seem to be of main interest to visitors are nicely laid out. However once you click on the topic, you are connected to a page with basic information and on each side there are links that might confuse the visitor at first. After touring around this redesigned site, the visitor realizes that the same links practically exist on every page with minimal change. I donít think USCIS is providing its visitors with more information, itís just that the same information has moved!"
I don't know that my evaluation of the new website is as harsh. However, I do have some problems with the new website.
On August 15, a few weeks before the new website went online, we wrote "USCIS' Redesigned Website: Our Suggestions" See http://carlshusterman.blogspot.com/2009/08/uscis-redesigned-website-our-suggetions.html
Did the new website adopt any of our suggestions? Read on.
* Suggestion # 1 - Please do Something to Improve the Search Engine
As a trial, we typed in the words "L status" into the search engine and got ten results. However,
none of the results led us to a page discussing what L status is and how to obtain it. Is there such a page on the USCIS website? Perhaps the search engine still needs some work. Until USCIS improves its website and search engine, feel free to go to our "Intracompany Transferees L-1 Status" page at http://shusterman.com/l-vsa.html
* Suggestion # 2 - Make the Website Easier to Navigate
Failing to find any information about L status by clicking "Resources" near the top of the new website, we typed "Nonimmigrant Categories" in the search engine, and with a bit more effort, found the following 162-page PDF file about nonimmigrant status: http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/Nonimmigrant_Services.pdf
Was this information available on the old website? We don't know. However, why not simply
add an easy-to-locate "Nonimmigrant" section on the new website?
* Suggestion # 3 - Make the New Website as Good as the 1999 Website
Here, we searched for the four Nationality Charts. The term "Nationality Charts" yields
no results in the search engine. Similarly, opening "Citizenship & Naturalization Based
Resources" on the left side of the screen fails to reveal any information regarding obtaining
U.S. citizenship through one's parents, through derivation or acquisition. However, a google
search revealed that the Nationality Charts are still on the USCIS website located in the
Adjudicators' Field Manual. But why torture yourself? We link to all four Nationality Charts
from our "Citizenship" page at http://shusterman.com/toc-usc.html#6
* Suggestion # 4 - What's with the Long URLs?
On the new website, the URL for "Information for Employers and Employees" is
Need we say more?
* Suggestion # 5 - Help Immigrants and Their Employers Find Good Legal AdviceUnder the heading "Humanitarian Benefits Based Resources" on the left side of the screen is
the listing "Finding Legal Advice". The new website, like the old, still links to the EOIR
"List of Free (sic) Legal Service Providers". As we explained in our blog, this is both
misleading and untrue.
Does the new website link to the list of "Certified Specialists in Immigration and Nationality
Law" as USCIS promised me in 2006? See http://shusterman.com/pdf/certsp1106.pdf
Of course not!
All in all, the new USCIS website is an improvement over the old website, but much more remains
to be done.
We give the new USCIS website a "B-"
Hopefully, the new website is a work-in-progress. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org