IBM to build immigration processing system

IBM Corp. has snagged a five-year, $491.1 million contract to build a new centralized electronic environment for processing applications and determining immigration benefits for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services directorate at the Homeland Security Department.

The contract is part of USCIS' ongoing effort to transform business processes for immigration benefits determination and reduce processing times. The initial indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract award to IBM is worth $14.5 million for an initial 90 day period, according to the company.

The current USCIS' immigration benefits determination process is paper-intensive and the agency has been criticized for the backlog of requests that developed as the number of applications has increased. To update its business process and speed up processing times USCIS has been working to transform the process.

According to a Government Accountability Office letter dated July 17, 2007, USCIS' transformation process will cost up to $536 million, mostly to be funded by revenue from fees paid by applicants. GAO and the DHS inspector general have stressed the importance of USCIS' information technology transformation. Other parts of the overall transformation process include hiring more employees and building new facilities.

In a press release issued today, USCIS said it had completed 1.17 million naturalization applications during fiscal 2008, over 422,000 more than it did in fiscal 2007. The agency also said processing naturalization applications now averages 9-10 months, down from 16 months to 18 months after a surge of applications in late fiscal 2007. The agency also said it will reduce processing times to five months by the end of fiscal 2009.

Under the contract award, IBM will work with USCIS to deploy a number of new technologies to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the adjudication process.

David S. Lipstein, public sector solutions executive at IBM Global Business Services, said over the course of the contract the immigration-related application processes will move online. He said the new electronic processing environment will include data analysis tools to help authorities improve risk and fraud detection capabilities.

He said technologies for the project will come from a variety of vendors. IBM's team includes Blackstone Technology Group, Deloitte Consulting, EDS Corp., Evolver, the Legacy Network, Sandler and Travis Trade Advisory Services, Sapient Corp., SI International Inc., Unisys Corp., and Visionary Integration Professionals.

IBM of Armonk, N.Y., ranks No. 16 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

Ben Bain writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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