Inadmissible aliens, some seeking asylum, are processed by CBP officers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Nov. 23, 2018. (Mani Albrecht/CBP)

USCIS Sees 10 Percent Jump in Online Applications as Digital Transformation Continues

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processed 10 percent more applications online this past fiscal year as the agency strives to convert paper-based processes to digital.

In a sampling of preliminary fiscal year 2019 statistics released today, USCIS said 1,214,300 applications were filed online as three new forms were introduced to the five already available for online submission. The agency plans to add at least five more forms to those available for online filing over the next fiscal year.

“Additionally, USCIS stood up FIRST, the federal government’s first fully electronic FOIA/Privacy Act request and delivery system that allows users to submit and track FOIA requests and receive documents digitally,” USCIS said. “In FY 2019, more than 26,000 electronic responses have been delivered to individuals with online accounts.”

The agency also expanded expanded the Information Services Modernization Program, which fields user questions that can be answered over the phone or by self-help modules, and saw myUSCIS sessions utilized at a number more than four million more often than in the previous fiscal year.

When it comes to processing applications, USCIS reported that its pilot program to use United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees biometric data for refugee applicant verification proved successful. The agency met its 30,000 refugee cap for the fiscal year.

On asylum cases, USCIS deployed between 40 and 60 asylum officers to the southwest border and worked toward its goal of hiring 500 asylum division staff by the end of the year. “New strategies are in development to more specifically target individuals with relevant experience and skill sets, including those with prior military and law enforcement expertise,” the agency said.

The division received more than 105,000 cases of refugees claiming credible fear of return, a jump of 5,000 from fiscal year 2018. Asylum claims were most submitted by migrants from Honduras, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador and India.

Of more than 16.5 million ATLAS screenings of migrants, the system flagged “124,000 automated potential fraud, public safety and national security detections requiring further analysis and manual review by USCIS officers.”

“The men and women of USCIS continue to administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, processing a large number of applications and requests while naturalizing 833,000 new U.S. citizens, an 11-year high,” USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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