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United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Agency overview
FormedMarch 1, 2003; 21 years ago (2003-03-01)
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
Headquarters5900 Capital Gateway Drive
Camp Springs, MD, U.S.
Employees21,253 (2021)[1]
Annual budget$4.235 billion (2021)[1]
Agency executive
Parent agencyUnited States Department of Homeland Security
Key document

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)[3] is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system. It is a successor to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which was dissolved by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and replaced by three components within the DHS: USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

USCIS performs many of the duties of the former INS, namely processing and adjudicating various immigration matters, including applications for work visas, asylum, and citizenship. Additionally, the agency is officially tasked with safeguarding national security, maintaining immigration case backlogs, and improving efficiency. Ur Jaddou has been the director of USCIS since August 3, 2021.


USCIS Office in Atlanta, Georgia

USCIS processes 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. The USCIS's other responsibilities include:

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 and 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. 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 path to 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 U.S. citizen after holding the Permanent Resident Card for at least five continuous years, with no trips out of the country of 180 days or more.[4] If 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 their spouse continuously for at least three years and the spouse has been a resident for at least three years.[5]


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.[6][circular reference]

USCIS handles two kinds of forms: those related to immigration, and those related to naturalization. Forms are designated by a specific name, and an alphanumeric sequence consisting of a 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).

List of directors of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services[edit]

No. Portrait Director Took office Left office Time in office Party President
Eduardo Aguirre
Aguirre, EduardoEduardo Aguirre
(born 1946)
August 15, 2003June 16, 20051 year, 305 daysRepublicanBush, GeorgeGeorge W. Bush (R)
Michael Petrucelli
Petrucelli, MichaelMichael Petrucelli
June 17, 2005July 25, 200538 days?Bush, GeorgeGeorge W. Bush (R)
Emilio T. Gonzalez
Gonzalez, EmilioEmilio T. Gonzalez
(born 1956)
December 21, 2005April 18, 20082 years, 119 daysRepublicanBush, GeorgeGeorge W. Bush (R)
Jonathan "Jock" Scharfen
Scharfen, JonathanJonathan "Jock" Scharfen
April 21, 2008December 2, 2008225 days?Bush, GeorgeGeorge W. Bush (R)
Alejandro Mayorkas
Mayorkas, AlejandroAlejandro Mayorkas
(born 1959)
August 12, 2009December 23, 20134 years, 133 daysDemocraticObama, BarackBarack Obama (D)
Lori Scialabba
Scialabba, LoriLori Scialabba
December 23, 2013July 9, 2014198 days?Obama, BarackBarack Obama (D)
León Rodríguez
Winkowski, ThomasLeón Rodríguez
(born 1962)
July 9, 2014January 20, 20172 years, 195 daysDemocraticObama, BarackBarack Obama (D)
Lori Scialabba
Scialabba, LoriLori Scialabba
January 20, 2017March 31, 201770 days?Trump, DonaldDonald Trump (R)
James W. McCament
McCament, JamesJames W. McCament
March 31, 2017October 8, 2017191 days?Trump, DonaldDonald Trump (R)
L. Francis Cissna
Cissna, LeeL. Francis Cissna
(born 1966)
October 8, 2017June 1, 20191 year, 236 daysIndependentTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (R)
Ken Cuccinelli[1]
CuccinelliKen Cuccinelli[1]
(born 1968)
June 10, 2019November 18, 2019161 daysRepublicanTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (R)
Mark Koumans
Koumas, MarkMark Koumans
November 18, 2019February 20, 202094 daysIndependentTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (R)
Joseph Edlow
Edlow, JosephJoseph Edlow
February 20, 2020January 20, 2021335 daysIndependentTrump, DonaldDonald Trump (R)
Tracy Renaud
Renaud, TraceyTracy Renaud
January 20, 2021August 3, 2021195 daysIndependentBiden, JoeJoe Biden (D)
Ur Mendoza Jaddou
Mendoza, UrUr Mendoza Jaddou
(born 1974)
August 3, 2021Incumbent2 years, 326 daysIndependentBiden, JoeJoe Biden (D)

1 Ken Cuccinelli served from July 8 to December 31, 2019, as de facto Acting Director. His tenure as Acting Director was ruled unlawful. He remained Principal Deputy Director at USCIS for the remainder of his tenure.

Immigration courts and judges[edit]

The United States immigration courts, 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.)[7]


Internet presence[edit]

USCIS's official website was redesigned in 2009 and unveiled on September 22, 2009.[8] The last major redesign before 2009 was in October 2006. The website now includes a virtual assistant, Emma, who answers questions in English and Spanish.[9]

Inquiry and issue resolution[edit]

USCIS's website contains self-service tools, including a case status checker and address change request form. Applicants, petitioners, and their authorized representatives can also submit case inquiries and service requests on USCIS's website. The inquiries and requests are routed to the relevant USCIS center or office to process. Case inquiries may involve asking about a case that is outside of normal expected USCIS processing times for the form. Inquiries and service requests may also concern not receiving a notice, card, or document by mail, correcting typographical errors, and requesting disability accommodations.[10]

If the self-service tools on USCIS's website cannot resolve an issue, the applicant, petitioner, or authorized representative can contact the USCIS Contact Center. If the Contact Center cannot assist the inquirer directly, the issue will be forwarded to the relevant USCIS center or office for review. Some applicants and petitioners, primarily those who are outside of the United States, may also schedule appointments on USCIS's website


Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees, most of it via the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA).[11] USCIS is authorized to collect fees for its immigration case adjudication and naturalization services by the Immigration and Nationality Act.[12] In fiscal year 2020, USCIS had a budget of US$4.85 billion; 97.3% of it was funded by fees and 2.7% by congressional appropriations.[13]


USCIS consists of approximately 19,000 federal employees and contractors working at 223 offices around the world.[14]


A field USCIS office provides interviews for all non-asylum cases; naturalization ceremonies; appointments for information; and applicant services.[1] USCIS Asylum offices schedule interviews only for asylum and suspension of deportation and special rule cancellation of removal under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). Asylum offices do not provide information services. Applications are not filed at asylum offices. [2] International offices provide services to U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents, and certain other people who are visiting or residing outside the U.S. International offices are in Beijing, Guangzhou, Havana, San Salvador, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, New Delhi, Nairobi, and Mexico City.[3]

Mission statement[edit]

USCIS's mission statement was changed on February 9, 2022. USCIS Director Jaddou announced the new mission statement. In 2021, USCIS leadership empowered employees to submit words that they felt best illustrated the agency's work. The new mission statement reflects this feedback from the workforce, the Biden administration's priorities, and Jaddou's vision for an inclusive and accessible agency.[15]

The mission statement now reads:

USCIS upholds America's promise as a nation of welcome and possibility with fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.[16]

See also[edit]

Comparable international agencies[edit]


Public Domain 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 2022" (PDF). U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-03-12. Retrieved 2022-03-12.
  2. ^ "Ur M. Jaddou, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services". USCIS. August 3, 2021. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  3. ^ "Our History". 24 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Chapter 3 - Continuous Residence | USCIS". www.uscis.gov. 2021-05-25. Retrieved 2024-01-21.
  5. ^ "Chapter 3 - Spouses of U.S. Citizens Residing in the United States | USCIS". www.uscis.gov. 2020-01-09. Retrieved 2024-01-21.
  6. ^ Immigration and Naturalization Service
  7. ^ "The Citizenship Surge". The New York Times. Nov 27, 2007. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "Meet Emma, Our Virtual Assistant | USCIS". 13 April 2018.
  10. ^ "E-Request".
  11. ^ Khatri, Prakash (11 January 2007). "Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman's 2007 Annual Report" (PDF). United States Department of Homeland Security: 46–47. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  12. ^ Federal User Fees: Additional Analyses and Timely Reviews Could Improve Immigration and Naturalization User Fee Design and USCIS Operations (PDF) (Report). United States Government Accountability Office. January 2009. p. 7. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  13. ^ Department of Homeland Security United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Budget Overview: Fiscal Year 2021 Congressional Justification (PDF) (Report). United States Department of Homeland Security. February 12, 2020. p. 11. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 1, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  14. ^ "About Us". 28 January 2020.
  15. ^ USCIS Announces New Agency Mission Statement-date=February 09, 2022, 9 February 2022
  16. ^ Mission and Core Valuesaccess-date=February 09, 2022, 9 February 2022

External links[edit]