United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
|Formed||March 1, 2003|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters||111 Massachusetts Avenue NW|
|Annual budget||$3.219 billion (2014)|
|Parent agency||United States Department of Homeland Security|
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that administers the country's naturalization and immigration systems. It performs many of the duties of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which was dissolved by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and replaced by three components within the newly-formed DHS: USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
In addition to processing and adjudicating various immigration matters — from visa petitions to asylum applications — USCIS is officially tasked with safeguarding national security, eliminating immigration case backlogs, and improving efficiency. USCIS is headed by a director, currently Lee Cissna, who reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
USCIS is charged with processing immigrant visa petitions, naturalization applications, asylum applications, applications for adjustment of status (green cards), and refugee applications. It also makes adjudicative decisions performed at the service centers, and manages all other immigration benefits functions (i.e., not immigration enforcement) performed by the former INS. Other responsibilities of the USCIS include:
- Administration of immigration services and benefits
- Issuing employment authorization documents (EAD)
- Adjudicating petitions for non-immigrant temporary workers (H-1B, O-1, etc.)
While core immigration benefits functions remain the same as under the INS, a new goal is to process immigrants' applications more efficiently. Improvement efforts have included attempts to reduce the applicant backlog, as well as providing customer service through different channels, including the USCIS Contact Center with information in English and Spanish, Application Support Centers (ASCs), the Internet and other channels. The enforcement of immigration laws remains under Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
USCIS focuses on two key points on the immigrant's journey towards civic integration: when they first become permanent residents and when they are ready to begin the formal naturalization process. A lawful permanent resident is eligible to become a citizen of the United States after holding the Permanent Resident Card for at least five continuous years, with no trips out of the United States lasting 180 days or more. If, however, the lawful permanent resident marries a U.S. citizen, eligibility for U.S. citizenship is shortened to three years so long as the resident has been living with the spouse continuously for at least three years and the spouse has been a resident for at least three years.
USCIS handles all forms and processing materials related to immigration and naturalization. This is evident from USCIS' predecessor, the INS, (Immigration and Naturalization Service) which is defunct as of March 1, 2003.[better source needed]
USCIS currently handles two kinds of forms: those relating to immigration, and those related to naturalization. Forms are designated by a specific name, and an alphanumeric sequence consisting of one letter, followed by two or three digits. Forms related to immigration are designated with an I (for example, I-551, Permanent Resident Card) and forms related to naturalization are designated by an N (for example, N-400, Application for Naturalization).
Immigrations courts and judges
The United States immigration courts and immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals which hears appeals from them, are part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) within the United States Department of Justice. (USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security.)
USCIS' official website is USCIS.gov. The site was redesigned in 2009 and unveiled on September 22, 2009.
The redesign made the web page interface more like the Department of Homeland Security's official website. The last major redesign before 2009 took place in October 2006.
Also, USCIS runs an online appointment scheduling service known as INFOPASS. This system allows people with questions about immigration to come into their local USCIS office and speak directly with a government employee about their case and so on. This is an important way in which USCIS serves the public.
Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees. Under President George W. Bush's FY2008 budget request, direct congressional appropriations made about 1% of the USCIS budget and about 99% of the budget was funded through fees. The total USCIS FY2008 budget was projected to be $2.6 billion.
USCIS consists of approximately 19,000 federal employees and contractors working at 223 offices around the world.
Mission statement controversy
USCIS's mission statement was changed on February 23, 2018. Among other changes, the phrase "America's promise as a nation of immigrants" was eliminated, a move that drew criticism from immigration rights advocates and praise from those in favor of tighter restrictions on immigration.
- Visa policy of the United States
- The other two major U.S. immigration-related agencies:
Comparable international agencies
- UK Visas and Immigration
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
- Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
- Directorate General of Immigration (Indonesia)
- "Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment - September 2017". United States Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "Budget-in-Brief: Fiscal Year 2015" (PDF). U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
- "Our History".
- "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services". U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- Immigration and Naturalization Service
- "The Citizenship Surge". The New York Times. Nov 27, 2007. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- "Secretary Napolitano and USCIS Director Mayorkas Launch Redesigned USCIS Website" (Press release). United States Department of Homeland Security. September 22, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
- CIS Ombudsman's 2007 Annual Report, pages 46-47
- USCIS FY2008 budget request fact sheet
- "About Us".
- Jordan, Miriam (2018-02-22). "Is America a 'Nation of Immigrants'? Immigration Agency Says No". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
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