Modernizing the US immigration system with user-centered design

Vivian Graubard describes on how the U.S. Digital Service is working on modernizing the USA’s still largely paper based immigration service, pairing a better technical base with user-centered design.

We traveled to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) operations centers in Kansas City, Missouri and Lincoln, Nebraska to learn how adjudicators work, how they make decisions, and how they talk about what they do. We saw the tools they made for themselves and the workarounds they’d created for their own internal processes that were making it harder to make decisions on requests. These observations gave us enough data to create a concept for a design that we took back into the field and got feedback on. From this, we started a program of regular intervals of usability testing.

With the help of teams at 18F — part of the General Services Administration (GSA) — they launched myUSCIS, a platform that allows users to easily access information about the immigration process and find immigration options for which they may qualify. Co-created and co-designed with USCIS’ customers, myUSCIS is a major paradigm shift in how the government designs and builds digital services for its customers. Ultimately, it will become the primary tool for USCIS’ customers to manage the majority of their online experience with USCIS.