Fall 2017 Report to Congress

Modernizing Our Immigration System

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Challenge

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes millions of immigration requests a year through a paper-based process that results in long waiting periods for applicants who have little visibility into the status of their application or petition. When the agency’s Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) modernization program faced a host of challenges, USDS partnered with the USCIS team to help address those challenges and accelerate implementation.

The Solution

Since 2014, the DHS Digital Service has been supporting the release of USCIS’s most critical digital capabilities and services such as ELIS—the case management system that supports processing and adjudication of digitized immigration workloads—and myUSCIS, the authenticated user experience which allows applicants to apply and track their cases online. Both of these initiatives are partnerships between USDS and USCIS’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

USDS has continued its strong partnership with USCIS to support the creation of a digitized system for immigration applicants and petitioners. The tools and features being created include the digitized interactive version of the most critical USCIS workloads and a case status page for applicants. Many of these tools soft-launched in 2017 and have been adopted as the primary entry point for applicants seeking naturalization.


In late October 2017, USCIS successfully transitioned N-400 digital processing from the legacy CLAIMS4 system to ELIS. Previously, an individual had to complete a physical 20-page N-400 form to become a naturalized citizen. The completed form was often shipped across the country to multiple immigration officers, adjudicators, and clerks to review immigration records, perform interviews, and process background checks. All applicants are now able to apply online and USCIS is able to process the application more efficiently. With more than 975,000 naturalization applicants every year, incremental improvements quickly result in a tremendous impact. Because all newly filed N-400 applications are electronically processed by ELIS, the agency is also cutting down on agency processing costs.


  • 5% → 50% Increase in immigration workload completed digitally
  • 100% of new N-400 applications electronically processed since late Oct. 2017

This project was previously chronicled in our July 2017 Report to Congress.

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