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Getting the Most From the USCIS Website

Posted by attorney John Egan

Getting the Most From the USCIS Website

To make your migration plans work, you need accurate, reliable information. But where do you find it? There are hundreds of websites offering up immigration advice, forms, opinions and special offers. Some of these are designed to look similar to the official USCIS.gov site, and some use an intentionally similar name to imply that they are somehow providing authoritative information. Like anything you find on the Web, you need to be careful about trusting these sorts of sites – after all, do you really think you should rely on information provided on a website that uses deceit or trickery to get you to view it in the first place?

One absolute giveaway for a bogus website is if the site offers to provide you with immigration forms for a fee. ALL immigration forms are available for FREE at the USCIS website, and, because the USCIS changes the forms often, you should not trust anyone to other than USCIS (or your immigration lawyer, who has a professional responsibility to stay up-to-date) to have the most recent versions. Simply put, anyone attempting to charge you for immigration forms is trying to cheat you.

The official website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is at www.uscis.gov and you should go ahead and type that into your browser – don’t search by keyword or you may end up at a look-alike or decoy site. Once you’ve found the official site, bookmark it. You’ll be coming back often.

The Obama administration recently put its Office of Information Technology to work together with USCIS to update its site and make it more user-friendly. This has led to some useful improvements. However there are still two significant problems with the site.

First, there is so much information on the site that it can be hard to find what you are looking for. The only way to get around this is to explore the site and its navigation system BEFORE you need that one last bit of information to meet your filing deadline. Go ahead and become familiar with the site now and return often. The exercise is not a waste of time, you will be a better informed user after every visit.

The second problem with the USCIS site is that, despite recent efforts to improve the site’s usability, the site still reflects the USCIS’ ambivalent commitment to facilitating immigrants’ need for information and guidance. Too many of USCIS’ procedures are overly complex, use confusing language and require users to make choices without fully understanding the consequences of those choices. So even though the USCIS is providing better access to information, and inexperienced user may still find that jeopardy is lurking between the lines, and what the site has NOT told you may impact the viability of your application.

Still, the USCIS site speaks for the United States government, and remains the single best source for immigration facts, forms, and information about the U.S. immigration system. Use the site to become a well-informed consumer – and check your understanding with an experienced expert before committing yourself to a course of action. In this way, you will save yourself time and money, and reduce the level of uncertainty in the immigration process.

Here's a direct link to the USCIS website:

· www.uscis.gov

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