Digitization and Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR): 5 Tips for the Immigration Practitioners

As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to modernize, USCIS recently announced the live release of the USCIS Policy Manual Page on January 7, 2013.  The Policy Manual page will be updated in phases; the first phase includes addition of USCIS policies on Citizenship and Naturalization.  Subsequent phases will include updates to policies on other areas of substantive law.

For all immigration practitioners, this new USCIS Policy Manual will eventually replace the current Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM).  The new Policy Manual will include policy updates, expanded table of contents, links to INA sections and CFR code sections, as well as actual immigration-related forms.  An important user-interface change is switching from parenthetical citations to footnotes, which is much easier on the eyes.

Another important aspect of this new Policy Manual format is the fact that USCIS provides updates to the Manual in a summarized context (see here) so the public will know what updates were made and on which dates.  This process is much more organized and a huge improvement to USCIS’ past (bad) habit of (randomly) updating webpages without advance notice to the public. Modernization is indeed a priority for USCIS as it strives to digitize much of its data and its adjudications.  The ELIS program, for example, is well underway to expand acceptance to other visa processes.  To its credit, USCIS’ modernization through software and digitization has been a consistent theme in 2012. Now, more than ever, with the prospect of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) materializing into a reality as soon as this year, it begs the question: how are immigration practitioners responding?

Here are five tips that will get you started to preparing for CIR but it first starts with getting your house of cards in order.

1.       Implementing a Case Management Solution

As of December 2012, the Pew Research Center reported that more than 11 million undocumented immigrants are currently residing in the U.S.  A CIR package could theoretically impact any number of immigrants within this population.  Is your firm or legal organization ready to process a huge influx of potential clients?  If so, how would service to your existing clients be impacted?  Would their level of service decline in order to meet the needs of the CIR group? The reality for many practitioners is that providing a quality legal service hinges on the organization or firm’s abilities to leverage their case management software.  Most organizations or firm don’t have the luxury of hiring a large staff so relying on technology that allows you to efficiently process a high case load is essential! See why LawLogix is so passionate about helping our immigration practitioners succeed with technology.  Click here for more details.

2.       Setting up protocols and templates

Technology and staff alone must function in harmony, usually through protocols and templates.  Does your organization have them in place? Have they been evaluated for efficiency and substantive accuracy?  When was the last time you evaluated your templates?

3.       Hiring and Training

For organizations that are able to support hiring new staff members, consider the amount of time needed to have new staff members get “up to speed” and ready to perform at optimal level.  What training is provided and what allowances does your organization give to ensure these new members remain long-term assets beyond CIR?

4.       Strengthening your network

The ultimate beneficiaries for many practitioners when collaborating with other colleagues and industry leaders are their clients.  For example, if your practice involves filing many VAWA or U visas, what relationship do you have with local law enforcement agencies?  Are you in touch with local district offices Community Relation Officers?  What if your organization needs to refer to an outside provider?

5.       Attending Seminars

Keeping up to date with practice management and substantive laws is critical to a successful practice. This is why we’re providing regular webinars this year for our EDGE client network as well as our readers.

Want more details on preparing for CIR?  Our non-profit organizations interested in preparing for CIR should attend our upcoming webinar on January 16, 2013 at 2pm Eastern: The Keys to Prepare your Organization for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that Drives Success Attendees should register here.