Large-scale antenna arrays employed by the base station (BS) constitute an essential next-generation communications technique. However, due to the constraints of size, cost, and power consumption, it is usually considered unrealistic to use a large-scale antenna array at the user side. Inspired by the emerging technique of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS), we firstly propose the concept of user-side RIS (US-RIS) for facilitating the employment of a large-scale antenna array at the user side in a cost- and energy-efficient way. In contrast to the existing employments of RIS, which belong to the family of base-station-side RISs (BSS-RISs), the US-RIS concept by definition facilitates the employment of RIS at the user side for the first time. This is achieved by conceiving a multi-layer structure to realize a compact form-factor. Furthermore, our theoretical results demonstrate that, in contrast to the existing single-layer structure, where only the phase of the signal reflected from RIS can be adjusted, the amplitude of the signal penetrating multi-layer US-RIS can also be partially controlled, which brings about a new degree of freedom (DoF) for beamformer design that can be beneficially exploited for performance enhancement. In addition, based on the proposed multi-layer US-RIS, we formulate the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) maximization problem of US-RIS-aided communications. Due to the non-convexity of the problem introduced by this multi-layer structure, we propose a multi-layer transmit beamformer design relying on an iterative algorithm for finding the optimal solution by alternately updating each variable. Finally, our simulation results verify the superiority of the proposed multi-layer US-RIS as a compact realization of a large-scale antenna array at the user side for uplink transmission.