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Immigration Agency Online to Reduce Waits

Appointments for services can now be made on immigration office website.

March 18, 2004|Teresa Watanabe | Times Staff Writer

Immigration officials launched an Internet-based appointment system Wednesday that they hope will virtually eliminate the long lines and hours of waiting typical at most Southern California immigration offices.

The new service, called InfoPass, is available for scheduling appointments in the downtown Los Angeles, Santa Ana and San Bernardino offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is not available for offices in Ventura, East Los Angeles or El Monte.

Several immigration services are already available online, including downloading forms, checking on cases and replacing or renewing green cards.

But about 500,000 Southern Californians annually request personal visits with immigration officials for more complex situations, including changes in immigration status, extending work authorizations and replacing lost documents, immigration officials say.

The service was launched as a pilot project in Miami last year and eliminated all lines within three weeks, according to Jack Bulger, district director of the immigration service's Miami office.

Bulger said his office served 250,000 people annually, some of whom used to line up for appointments a day ahead of time.

During a recent test run in the Los Angeles office, customers took less than 30 minutes to complete their business, said Los Angeles immigration spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

The service is available in English, Spanish and Creole but will probably be expanded to include other languages, Kice said. She added that the downtown Los Angeles office had set up two kiosks for those without other means of Internet access.

The service is available by logging on to www.uscis.gov and selecting InfoPass.

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