United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Agency overview
Formed March 1, 2003; 14 years ago (2003-03-01)
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Employees 19,000 (2014)[1]
Annual budget $3.219 billion (2014)[1]
Agency executives
  • James McCament, Acting Director
  • Tracy Renaud, Acting Deputy Director
Parent agency United States Department of Homeland Security
Website www.uscis.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)[2] is a component of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It performs many administrative functions formerly carried out by the former United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which was part of the Department of Justice. The stated priorities of USCIS are to promote national security, to eliminate immigration case backlogs, and to improve customer services. USCIS is headed by a director, currently James McCament, who reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security.[3]


Office in Atlanta, Georgia

USCIS is charged with processing immigrant visa petitions, naturalization petitions, asylum applications, 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 include:

While core immigration benefits functions remain the same as under the INS, a new goal is to process applications efficiently and effectively. Improvement efforts have included attempts to reduce the applicant backlog, as well as providing customer service through different channels, including the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) 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's predecessor, the INS, (Immigration and Naturalization Service) which is defunct as of March 1, 2003.[4][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[edit]

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.)[5]


Internet presence[edit]

USCIS' official website is USCIS.gov. The site was redesigned in 2009 and unveiled on September 22, 2009.[6]

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. USCIS maintains a blog entitled "The Beacon" as well as the "@uscis" Twitter account.


Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees.[7] 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.[8]


USCIS consists of 19,000 federal employees and contractors working at 223 offices around the world.[9]


The beginning of the USCIS dates back to the late 1800s. In 1891, the first federal immigration agency was brought to fruition. This agency, known as the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration, was placed under the control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Four years after this was established, a new law changed the name from Superintendent of Immigration, to the Bureau of Immigration. In 1903, the Bureau of Immigration was no longer ran by the Department of Treasury. The department that took the reigns at this time was the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor. Three years after this shift in management, Congress passed the Basic Naturalization Act which caused a joint agency to be born. The resulting agency, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, lasted until 1913 before it saw another shift in leadership. The new leadership became the Department of Labor, and caused the Bureau to split into two separate agencies: the Bureau of Immigration, and the Bureau of Naturalization. This division did not last long, for in 1933 these two agencies would reunite. This rejoining of agencies turned into the Immigration and Naturalization Service, also known as the INS.[10][11][12]

The INS were widely seen as ineffective, particularly after scandals that arose after September 11, 2001.[13] On November 25, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 into law. This law transferred the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) functions to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Immigration enforcement functions were placed within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the border and Ports-of-Entry while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within land. The immigration service functions were placed into the separate USCIS. USCIS was formerly and briefly named the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), before becoming USCIS.[14]

On March 1, 2003, the INS ceased to exist and services provided by that organization transitioned into USCIS. Eduardo Aguirre was appointed the first USCIS Director by President Bush. In December 2005, Emilio T. Gonzalez, Ph.D., was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Director of USCIS, and he held this position until April 2008.[15] Nominated by President Barack Obama on April 24 and unanimously confirmed on August 7 by the U.S. Senate, Alejandro Mayorkas was sworn in as USCIS Director on August 12, 2009.


In January 2017, a Twitter ‘alt-account’ called @ALT_USCIS[16] was created to satirize the USCIS under the Trump administration, one of many alt-accounts created in the wake of Trump's inauguration. In March 2017, the Department of Homeland Security issued a summons to Twitter to unmask the pseudonymous operators of the political satire, and on April 6, 2017, Twitter sued the United States federal government to block the unmasking on First Amendment freedom of speech grounds.[17]

History Library[edit]

A library was created in 1987 to trace, document and promote understanding of the history of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the agencies and programs that preceded it since the implementation of federal government immigration policy in 1891.

The USCIS History Library and its staff provide professional library services, issue historical accounts for distribution, support research efforts and provide official information and resources to other government agencies, researchers and the general public. Its website grants access to the library information, news, and its collection available online.

The Online collection includes legal history resources, periodicals, photographs, vertical files covering a variety of topics, as well as information about their microfilm and video collections and a guide to online catalog services.

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

  1. ^ a b "Budget-in-Brief: Fiscal Year 2015" (PDF). U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2014-11-12. 
  2. ^ "Our History". 
  3. ^ "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services". U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  4. ^ Immigration and Naturalization Service
  5. ^ "The Citizenship Surge". The New York Times. Nov 27, 2007. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ CIS Ombudsman's 2007 Annual Report, pages 46-47
  8. ^ USCIS FY2008 budget request fact sheet
  9. ^ "About Us". 
  10. ^ "Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS]". National Archives. 15 August 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  11. ^ "USCIS and INS History". immigrationroad.com. Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  12. ^ "Commissioners and Directors". USCIS. Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  13. ^ Special report "The INS's Contacts With Two September 11 Terrorists" by the U.S. DOJ Inspector General, May 20, 2002, at www.usdoj.gov
  14. ^ Name Change From the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [69 FR 60938] [FR 39-04]. Uscis.gov. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  15. ^ Leadership info at www.uscis.gov
  16. ^ ALT Immigration
  17. ^ Isaac, Mike (April 6, 2017). "Twitter Sues the Government to Block the Unmasking of an Account Critical of Trump". The New York Times. San Francisco. 

External links[edit]