Homeland Security will accept electronic signatures

The Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement today issued an interim final rule clearing the way for applicants to submit electronic signatures on immigration benefit documents.

Last week, the BICE unveiled plans to begin accepting two immigration forms online, and today's action is part of the bureau's plan to convert more immigration forms to online transactions.

The Interim Final Rule signed by HSD secretary Tom Ridge does not require that applicants use electronic signatures. BICE said in its Federal Register notice announcing the rule that the electronic signature regulation will help the department comply with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act.

The regulation does not specify what technology BICE will adopt to accept electronic signatures. It does state that BICE clients will receive confirmation numbers electronically to acknowledge that the bureau has received the online documents.

The bureau said that it does not have the technology to implement online signatures yet, but will begin to deploy it in fiscal 2004.

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