On Tuesday I was asked to participate in a call with USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. The Director reached out to several prominent bloggers. The purpose of the call was to get feedback on the new USCIS website. To the Director's credit, he participated directly on the call. He answered questions directly from the bloggers and had several USCIS officials there to help him with some of the details that the director of a huge agency could not possibly know.
The new site has some very nice features. The most immediate improvement is that the site is clean and user-friendly. The updates to the Case Status section are commendable. Looking ahead, the Director explained that in May 2010 the site will alllow for interactive email service queries.
The site is still buggy. Many of the new links are not operable at this time; USCIS expects to fix the bugs in the next few days/months. Curiously the webpage URL’s are still unusually long. In the future, USCIS expects simplified URLs (e.g. www.uscis.gov/forms instead of http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD. This URL is not a joke!).
The Director showed a self-deprecating sense of humor. After acknowledging that the link to the Leadership Biography page was not yet fully operable, he coyly remarked that the reason for the delay was because his biography was lengthy and he had not yet finished it.
But the best message that I heard is that the USCIS took the time to reach out to the community. In the past, USCIS announcements often come with a simple Press Release. This “new” USCIS approach to community outreach is laudable. The Director and his team deserves kudos.