U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) that administers the country's naturalization
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
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, eliminating immigration
case backlogs, and improving efficiency. USCIS is currently headed by an Acting Director, Tracy Renaud, since January 2021.
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USCIS processes immigrant visa
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 document
* Adjudicating petitions for non-immigrant temporary workers (H-1B
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
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.
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).
Immigration 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 iuscis.gov
The site was redesigned in 2009 and unveiled on September 22, 2009. The last major redesign before 2009 was in October 2006. The USCIS website now includes a virtual assistant, Emma, who answers questions in English and Spanish.
Inquiry and issue resolution
USCIS's website contains manself-service tools
including case status checker
anaddress change request form
Applicants, petitioners, and their authorized representatives can also submicase 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 onormal 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.
If the self-service tools on USCIS's website cannot help resolve an issue, the applicant, petitioner, or authorized representative can contact thUSCIS 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 currently outside of the United States, may alsschedule appointments
on USCIS's website
Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees. USCIS is authorized to collect fees for its immigration case adjudication and naturalization services by the Immigration and Nationality Act
. In fiscal year 2020, USCIS had a budget of ; of the budget was funded through fees and through congressional appropriations
USCIS consists of approximately 19,000 federal employees and contractors working at 223 offices around the world.
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.
The mission statement now reads:
* Visa policy of the United States
** H-1B Visa
** Permanent residence (United States)
** Visa Waiver Program
* The other two major U.S. immigration-related agencies:
** U.S. Customs and Border Protection
** U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Comparable international agencies
* UK Visas and Immigration
* Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
* Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
* Directorate General of Immigration (Indonesia)
Homeland Security Act of 2002USCIS
in the Federal Registerwhat is USCIS by Cacfti
Category:United States Department of Homeland Security agencies
Category:Immigration to the United States
Category:History of immigration to the United States
Category:Government agencies established in 2003
Category:2003 establishments in Washington, D.C.
Category:Organizations based in Washington, D.C.