|Formed||March 1, 2003|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters||111 Massachusetts Avenue NW|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|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 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. USCIS is currently headed by an Acting Director, Tracy Renaud, since January 2021.
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. 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.[circular reference]
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 is uscis.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 many 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.
If the self-service tools on USCIS's website cannot help 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 currently 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. 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 US$4.85 billion; 97.3% of the budget was funded through fees and 2.7% 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:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.
- 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". FedScope Federal Workforce Data. United States Office of Personnel Management. June 2019. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- "Budget-in-Brief: Fiscal Year 2015" (PDF). U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2014-11-12.
- @haleaziz (January 20, 2021). "NEW: Acting DHS Pekoske just informed staff of the new acting heads of key DHS components They are: Customs and Border Protection, Troy Miller ICE, Tae Johnson, DHS Civil Rights, Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez USCIS, Tracy Renaud" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Our History".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- Mission and Core Valuesaccess-date=April 5, 2021
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