White House plugs plan to improve immigration IT

Digital Gov

White House plugs plan to improve immigration IT

Tech is part of President Barack Obama's executive action to change the immigration system. While some of the more politically thorny aspects of the plan are being held up in the courts, there appears to be some steam behind administration efforts to modernize the IT that undergirds the process.

Designers and engineers from the U.S. Digital Service, the Silicon Valley-style geek squad based at the Office of Management and Budget, did a month-long deep dive into immigration forms, procedures, adjudication processes and other bureaucratic arcana at the departments of State and Homeland Security.

"Moving a paper process online does more than eliminate paper and create efficiencies -- it offers the opportunity to rethink and redesign the experience for the digital age," USDS members wrote in a 48-page report from the White House called “Modernizing & Streamlining our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century.”

They're recommending a more consistent approach to the look and feel of the digital platforms aimed at immigrants and visa requesters, and a clearer and more intuitive process. More specifically, they're hoping to assist with the launch of the modernized immigrant visa (MIV) project -- a collaboration between State and DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services -- to digitize the visa application and adjudication process. USDS wants a cross-agency digital services team to work on the MIV pilot, which is being rolled out in Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Montreal, Rio de Janeiro and Sydney in 2015, with a wider launch in 2016.

USDS is also hoping to widen agency accessibility to data on prospective immigrants and travelers, while putting frequently used forms and required payments online. At the same time, they're hoping to expand the use of commercial cloud services for immigration systems, to get government out of the expensive infrastructure business. Already, CIS is hosting applications including the new myUSCIS in the cloud, but the USDS is hoping to migrate additional DHS components and State away from government data centers.

Another goal is to modernize aging technology stacks, including the nettlesome Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) at State, which has suffered a series of system-wide crashes leading to considerable downtime. The USDS is also hoping that State and DHS can do a better job of coordinating their data collection, and making their data interoperable across agency systems.

The White House report is more than just tech -- it includes analysis and recommendations for streamlining adjudication processes, international arrivals at ports of entry, and other measures. 

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.