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Modernizing Immigration with Digital Signatures

Modernizing Immigration with Digital Signatures

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Modernizing Immigration with Digital Signatures

The United States plays host to more immigrants than any other country in the world. The year 2020 recorded 40 million immigrants of varying nationalities. Although this problem statement has been highlighted during many election campaigns and rallies, finding a permanent solution has been challenging. While opening doors to immigrants may positively impact the economy, there is a potential risk of illegal immigration, posing a severe threat to national security. This is where paperwork can prove to be a serious hurdle. There have been numerous instances of people crossing the border using forged papers, leading to disastrous consequences. The key is to keep an eye out for suspicious-looking documents and implement a more holistic, secure, and robust system that can eliminate the possibility of unauthorized entry – such as digital signatures. 

The current immigration process

The current process to apply for an immigrant visa involves multiple steps. The current paper-riddled process consumes a significant amount of operational bandwidth of the National Visa Center (NVC) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – considering the fact that the immigrant population is projected to reach 78 million by 2065.

Step 1 – Filing a petition with the USCIS and filling out the form based on the type of visa.

Step 2 – Passing the application to the NVC.

Step 3 – Submitting your financial documents, affidavit of support, and civil documents.

Step 4 – Medical exam.

Step 5 – Visa interview.

Step 6 – Visa approval and issuance.

Step 7 – DO NOT OPEN THE SEALED VISA ENVELOPE. Instead, submit the sealed document to the immigration & customs official.

Also read: What You Should Be Looking for in a Digital Signature Provider

Why do we need digitization?

In the current process, when your application reaches the NVC, it may take several months to get processed, depending on the category of the visa you have applied for. Digitization can go a long way in streamlining the workflow and reducing the TAT. An ideal way to start this transition would be to implement digital signatures to speed up the approval workflow. This would drastically improve the experience for international students and working professionals.

Besides lengthy TATs and complexities, the current workflow also presents several vulnerabilities that may threaten national security. Where there is paperwork, there exists a high possibility of forgery. There have been numerous instances of Border Patrol officials arresting illegal immigrants trying to enter American soil through unfair means. The Rio Grande Valley sector – the southernmost tip of Texas, is more than familiar with ‘illegal aliens’ (people without proper authorization) trying to enter the United States. In February 2021, the Border Patrol Agents, with assistance from the County Sheriff, arrested 130 illegal immigrants. Some of them had flu-like symptoms, threatening the health and safety of other citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among illegal aliens, it is also likely for some of them to be wanted criminals. For example, in October 2020, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 30 at-large immigrants on American soil in San Antonio, TX. Some of these immigrants were convicted of burglary and distributing narcotics.

Digital signatures in the immigration ecosystem

Until June 2021, the U.S. border authorities have made more than one million arrests on the US-Mexico border. With digital signature solutions in place, we are looking at faster, secure, transparent, and more accountable immigration government bodies. In addition, E-signature solutions tend to maintain detailed logs and verify users, making it virtually impossible to trick the system. Ultimately, with digital signatures in place, we may not be able to bring illegal immigration down to zero, but we can certainly reduce it by a significant margin.

Source:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/the-immigrant-visa-process/step-1-submit-a-petition/step-2-begin-nvc-processing.html

https://uy.usembassy.gov/visas/immigrant-visas/steps-apply-immigrant-visa/

https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-announces-arrests-more-30-large-aliens-south-texas

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/us-border-arrests-top-1-million-fiscal-year-2021-2021-06-25/

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/group-130-illegal-aliens-arrested-mission-texas

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/01/us/undocumented-visa-overstays.html

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/13/key-facts-about-the-changing-u-s-unauthorized-immigrant-population/

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/20/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants/

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/12/how-pew-research-center-counts-unauthorized-immigrants-in-us/

https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/votervital/how-many-undocumented-immigrants-are-in-the-united-states-and-who-are-they/

https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/us-immigration/crime-enter-illegally.html

https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/us-immigration/legal-options-undocumented-illegal-immigrant-stay.html

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