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Day One: E-filing at the BCIS

by Robert C. Meltzer

Today's BCIS's press conference unveiled the new e-filing system for the I-90 and I-765 applications. To mark the occasion, Acting BCIS Director Eduardo Aguirre held a news conference in the Chicago District BCIS office which was broadcast in numerous cities across the country. I was present at the press conference and am happy to share what I learned today with Immigration Daily readers.

The Director, with the assistance of BCIS E-Filing Project Manager, Tracy Renaud, introduced the system and explained that it was a first step to capturing vital tracking information and biometrics consistent with the DHS mandates. Although it was not promoted as a way to expedite filing, Aguirre suggested that from a customer service perspective, applicants would no longer have to wait in lines at the field offices. However, the Director did not address the potential wait at the Application Support Center.

Highlights from the press conference included the following:

  • Applications can now be made online (and with the assistance of counsel). However the BCIS assumes that the "signature" button should be clicked by the applicant and not the attorney;
  • The form "times out" after 20 minutes of inactivity and doesn't save any information, so users should have all their information prepared. Once the form is submitted, however, the form cannot be retrieved;
  • A receipt is generated from the system once the submit button is clicked. The user must print this out, but the service centers will also send out an additional traditional I-797 receipt;
  • The filing fee will be deducted directly from the applicant's savings or checking account, however, the BCIS plans to accept credit card payments in the future;
  • Documents need to be mailed separately to an address which will be provided on the electronic receipt;
  • Signatures, photos and fingerprints will be collected separately at an Application Support Center and instructions appear on the electronic receipt which is provided once the application is complete;
  • If incorrect information is submitted on the application, users cannot change the information in the form so a letter in writing must be sent to the address on the receipt which explains the incorrect information; and,
  • Adjudication does not begin until all biometrics, information and documents are received and although the Director stated that this new process would necessarily, eventually improve overall backlog, there was no indication that current processing times would be reduced.
During a brief question and answer session, a pre-selected individual, successfully submitted an application form through the new online filing system. The application was completed within 15 minutes. Director Aguirre also stated that by the time of the press conference (11:30 CST) 130 applications had already been filed using the new system. Ms. Renaud introduced the principals from the three development firms that created the system. Material disseminated stated that by the Fall of 2003 the plan was to include the following additional forms to the e-filing system, although no further details regarding the issue of how documents would be handled were given: I-129, I-131, I-140, I-539, I-821 (TPS), I-907.

Again I would encourage everyone - attorneys, paralegals, third-party software vendors - to unify under the ESIG (E-filing Standards for Immigration Group) umbrella to approach the BCIS. We have already received an enthusiastic response from the Bar as will as the vendors.

Those interested in shaping the future of BCIS e-filing are strongly encouraged to join the ESIG. To join or for more information, send an e-mail to

About The Author

Robert C. Meltzer is the founder and President of

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.