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The federal government says it will begin accepting electronic filings from foreign nationals for employment authorization late next month.
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, already electronically collects a photograph, signature, and fingerprint from each foreign national residing in the United States. These are stored and can be used later for verification of identity. Foreign nationals whose applications are approved receive documents with special security features.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge issued a statement saying the move is an important step in Washington's effort to make immigration operations more efficient while boosting security.
Foreign nationals who file electronically must schedule an appointment at an application-support center for the electronic collection of a photograph, signature, and fingerprint.
The Employment Authorization and "green card" replacement applications were selected as the first electronic immigration forms because they account for 30% of the applications received annually. Additionally, these forms are relatively easy to complete and require very little supporting documentation because these individuals already have records on file with the government. Electronic filing for other immigration applications is expected to be phased in over the next several years.
The status of online applications can be checked at www.bcis.gov. Electronic filing is a key element of the bureau's Immigration Service Modernization program, a 10-year effort to transform the delivery of immigration services. The initiative focuses on improvements in a wide range of areas, including customer service, employee development, technology and processes, and management infrastructure.