Our Review of the INS Website – Government Responds

The following is an e-mail message that I received on September 20, 1999 from Gregg Beyer, INS’s Webmaster in response to the review of the INS Website contained in the September 1999 issue of SHUSTERMAN’S IMMIGRATION UPDATE.

Dear Carl,

Thanks for your recent review of our new Website. When we launched the site on August 12 [3 years to the day from the launch of our first effort], a great many of the referrals to our Website came from yours, a situation that remains to this day. Therefore, we take seriously your comments. But we want to add a couple of our own.

Your noting of our Website’s current inadequacies was not too far from the mark. But all is not that bad. After all, despite its faults, accessmagazine.com last weekend [September 12, 1999] awarded it four stars as a top immigration site.

http://www.accessmagazine.com/scripts/review_template.cfm?reviewCategoryID=266

But, we agree with you. While we’re proud of what we’ve done so far, we know much, much more remains to be done before the entire Website — and not just our search engine — is “totally cool” and useful to all of our many customers. Let us assure you and your readers, the best is yet to come.

Knowing our intentions and our plans, we accept your benefit of the doubt and also accept your challenge to revisit your review in a couple of months to see if we improved. We are indeed striving to be your “fine wine that improves with age” [a nicely Californian analogy!], not only in the coming months, but also in the coming years. In actively joining the Internet, and emphasizing our Website [even if perhaps “slightly before its time”] as a primary resource and a service, we have embarked on a journey to who knows exactly where. Along the way, we hope that neither you nor our mutual customers and readers will remain disappointed!

More immediately, we’re glad you finally found a photo of the Commissioner, and if its absence on our old Website “spoke volumes about what was wrong with the agency,” hopefully its presence on the new one will similarly portend better times ahead for everyone, especially would-be and current immigrants. And, if you liked our current Commissioner’s photo, we’ve done even better and included photos of several past Commissioners on our History, Genealogy and Education page.

By the way, Ancestry.com just awarded that page a “Family History Favorite Award” — meaning that at least one of our many customer groups likes the new Website.

As we stated up front in the “What’s New” of the new Website, much new information is published and more is coming — information of interest not only to immigrants but also to our many other interested customer groups. Yes, there are some blanks, but you should see these not as movies you cannot see but as previews of coming attractions.

Yes, the number of forms posted remains the same, but not for long. We want everyone to know that — in a couple of months — all the forms they need will be here — not just some! And not only that, the instructions we give for printing some forms off the Internet only on colored paper or only if head-to-foot [which even I have trouble figuring out how to do!] will be eliminated. [NOTE: This change needs a new rule; so stay tuned for exactly when it is published before breathing too much of a sigh of relief.] We want people to know that when they need a form it will be on our Website, easily downloaded, and printable in a normal way by normal people using normal equipment in their homes or at the library.

Feedback received from our Website’s customer survey confirms that most people visiting our Website want information on Immigration Services and Benefits. In a couple of months, it too will be there. And the Commissioner, in her Welcome to the Website, pledges that this will not only be there, but that it will remain accurate and timely.

In the meantime, before all the already previewed new content is published, we hope that people hunting for information about a particular subject will find our “How Do I…?” series helpful. We intended that this series would become a major help to folks — and if not, we need to know how to improve it. And if the subject someone wants is not there, we will try to add it.

As mentioned, would-be and current immigrants should indeed find the information under our “Field Offices” button really useful. There is information on more than 90 field offices, including, in addition to the district and sub-offices, service centers and asylum offices you mentioned, helpful information on some of our detention centers and land ports-of-entry [e.g., see Harlingen District Office].

Our clients need to know just which INS office(s) they need to go to. And this is not always as straightforward as it seems. For instance, take people living in Utah [click “Utah” on the State Map]. There are five (5) different INS offices of importance to immigrants in that state. Vital information about each of these offices is in the “About Us” of each location. Not to mention the terrific — if at times terrifyingly precise — advice given by service centers on proper packaging and filing of the more than 5 million applications they receive annually.

Yes, “current processing times” will be coming — but you still have time to obtain any medications you may need to calm your “racing heart” when they are published. We have made an affirmative commitment to make them available on the Website — that’s why the topic is mentioned. The answers however, will get more specific only as our wine ages. Right now we are still working out the details — again perhaps just a little ahead of our time.

So, again thanks for the review. You are in touch, so we’ll keep in touch. Until later,

Gregg Beyer
Director, INS Internet Enhancement Project
and Acting INS Web Manager

 

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