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United States Citizenship & Immigration Services

Most people think of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) when they think of the government agency that handles immigration issues. The INS, however, was abolished by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Its responsibility for immigration services was replaced, effective March 1, 2003, by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

The director of USCIS reports directly to the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Some immigration-related functions, such as border patrol and enforcement, are not handled by USCIS. Instead, the Directorate of Border and Transportation Security (BTS) will take charge of these issues, as well as detecting and removing illegal aliens who are living in the United States and preventing terrorists and other criminal aliens from entering or residing in the United States. BTS will include U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement divisions.

USCIS focuses exclusively on immigration services, with an objective to do so in accordance with the United States’ national security concerns. USCIS handles immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, adjustment of status, asylum claims, work permits, family-based entry permits, and naturalization applications. USCIS also handles all associated documentation for any immigration issue.

USCIS maintains the majority of the physical offices established by the INS. These offices include field offices, service centers, and national customer service call centers (NCSCs). The NCSCs provide toll-free numbers so that a person can call and receive information about immigration services and benefits. USCIS has also established application support centers, which are designed to standardize fingerprint reporting methods so that criminal checks can be performed more quickly and accurately.

In addition to retaining most of the physical offices established by the INS, USCIS continues to use most forms and documents put in place by the INS. Addresses and telephone numbers published on most forms remained the same following the transition.

As did the INS, USCIS services reach large numbers of people annually, both inside the United States and in foreign countries. These include millions of visa applications, millions of calls to the NCSCs and visits to field offices and service centers, and large numbers of asylum and refugee applications.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.


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