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Dear Editor,

We are a little late in thanking you for your editorial of December 22, 2000. [link http//,1222.shtm] We appreciate your review and your support of our revamped Website. Getting timely and accurate information -- and the latest forms -- to our mutual customers is an awesome and challenging task. All of us at INS are pleased that our Web efforts have met with some success.

We realize that many people have trouble getting basic information from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) since most of our communication channels are overloaded. Thus, in 1999, INS embarked on a complete remake of its Internet Website to provide the public with as much basic immigration information as possible. We debuted the new Website on August 12, 1999. We hope that our customers will increasingly come to rely on it for the latest information and easy access to the most current version of our forms.

We are working hard to ensure that the information on our Website is used both by the public and by INS officers throughout the Service as the "gold standard" of public information. For it to meet that standard, that information must be kept timely and accurate. We now have over 200 content owners (INS programs, offices and units) publishing content on the new INS Website. Once published, these content owners must maintain its continued accuracy and timeliness. This is a tremendous -- but mutually rewarding -- Servicewide commitment to the quality of our corporate Website to our customers. The challenge is daunting, but not impossible. We all are trying our best.

We realize that once customers review the information on our Website, they might still have questions. They can address their questions to the National Customer Service Center [link to ] (NCSC) (1-800-375-5283) which, in addition to taped messages, also provides live assistance in English and Spanish. [Within a couple of months, all NCSC recorded telephone messages will be published on the INS Website.] Of course, when necessary, some customers will have to visit their local field office. But we hope they do this only after they have been to these other sources of public information.

Some people have written to us complaining about the purported shortcomings of the Website -- particularly the inability to find the status of their cases online. INS, collectively, is working on ways to make this service available -- but we are not yet ready to do so. Others have requested that field office processing times be published on the Website -- and once again, we will do so when we are sure that we have a system in place that provides reliable and accurate information.

Your editorial mentioned our monthly Website statistical reports -- which we have just started publishing under Statistics. [link to] I am not at all sure how many other Federal Government Websites routinely report their monthly user statistics. But, as one measure of the usefulness of any Website, we began doing so for FY 2000 year-end statistics (for October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2000), and again for the first quarter of FY 2001 (October 1 through December 31, 2000). We will continue this reporting at least quarterly.

We are pleased that in less than one year from the August 1999 debut of our revamped Website, monthly user sessions climbed from 500,000 per month to over 1 million per month -- and have remained at that level through December 2000. For January, we are happy to note that the number of monthly user sessions jumped to 1.45 million -- a 40% increase over December! The number of unique users for the month of January jumped over 50% to some 701,000. These users still stayed at the Website an average of 15:26 minutes per session.

In addition to our own Web traffic, we are gratified that so many other immigration Websites (such as yours), media Websites, and others provide links to our Website information and forms.

However, I would quibble with the quibble in your Editorial about INS' Website statistical reports. We do use WebTrends to analyze the Web traffic at our Website. And, as you can see from the two reports already published, we also report both total monthly user sessions and monthly unique visitors (1,027,447 and just over 465,000, respectively, for the month of December), and what you call "monthly stickiness" (for the month of December, this was some 16:36 minutes per user session). NOTE: We hope that this means people are finding all sorts of interesting information or are hooking up to our Website and staying online all day as they help people find the immigration information they want and need.

As you noted, we also report average users per weekday (some 38,747 in December), and agree with you that this is not exactly the same as if we merely divided total monthly users by the total number of days of the month. Using that simple math, this latter average comes to 33,143.

As for how much we spend each year on the INS Website, the cost since FY 1999 remains at about $2 million per year. This includes the full-time Web (Content) Management staff (my team), the INS Webmaster's staff in our information technology division, and the services of the contractors that support and maintain the site on a daily basis.

Again, thank you very much for your comments


Gregg Beyer
INS Web Manager

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