Report: DHS spends $1B to digitize, only 1 immigration form available online

A Department of Homeland Security agency spent more than $1 billion in taxpayer money to digitize immigration paperwork -- and after a decade of work, only has managed to put one document online.

The Washington Post reported Monday that officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services still are only able to offer a single form -- out of nearly 100 -- for online applications, and make a single fee payable electronically.

All other forms can still only be filed with paper.

The report sheds light on a struggling effort that not only has frustrated immigrant applicants but raises national security concerns and could put at risk any effort to overhaul immigration policies.

The project was originally supposed to be done in 2013, for a half-billion-dollar price tag.

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Now, according to the Post, it isn't projected to be done for another four years and could cost over $3 billion.

"It's a huge albatross around our necks," Kenneth Palinkas, former head of the USCIS union, told the Post.

The report from the Post described a startling sequence of mismanagement in the program.

According to the report, agency officials did not finish a basic plan for the new system until three years after the initial contract was given to IBM, rendering part of the plan outdated before work began.

Only three forms were ever digitized, but two needed to be taken down after problems. The only available online form is an application for renewing or replacing a lost green card.

According to the Post, even that system has had problems and delays.

While DHS officials acknowledge these setbacks, they say the department has abandoned earlier plans and is moving toward a new system based in part on cloud computing, according to the Post.

USCIS also defended its work in a statement Monday afternoon.

"USCIS is actively working to go agile and move our application processes online. The Transformation initiative is developing that capability and will allow us to eventually move away from processing 8 million paper-based benefit requests a year," the agency told "But fixing a broken immigration system is not easy and this has taken longer than originally planned."

The agency said changes have allowed it to process "about 1.2 million benefit requests out of USCIS' total annual work volume," with more improvements to come.