Origins of USCIS

Prior to 2003, USCIS’s role was filled by the former United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS existed from 1933 to 2003 under the Departments of Labor and then Justice and handled the immigration system of the United States. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the federal government decided to reorganize several government entities in order to perform their functions more accurately and efficiently.

The INS was dissolved by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and its responsibilities were transferred to three new agencies within the Department of Homeland Security. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement was tasked with the responsibility of preventing the illegal movement of people and goods across U.S. borders. Customs and Border Protection patrols U.S. borders and regulates international trade. USCIS is the third of these new agencies and took on the administration of the U.S.  lawful immigration and naturalization system.

What does the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) do?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services oversees the lawful immigration and naturalization system of the United States and administers immigration benefits. These services include:

  • Citizenship and Naturalization: CIS handles the applications of immigrants who would like to become U.S. citizens. The agency processes applications, determines eligibility, and schedules Oath of Allegiance ceremonies.
  • Immigration of Family Members: CIS administers the processes by which U.S. citizens and permanent residents can sponsor the immigration of close family members.
  • Work Visas: USCIS handles both temporary work visas and work visas that can be the basis for a green card.
  • Verifying Work Eligibility: CIS manages the system through which employers can check whether employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.
  • Humanitarian Programs: Citizenship and Immigration Services administers humanitarian programs that protect victims of war and famine, and those at risk of persecution in their home countries.
  • Adoptions: CIS is involved in the international adoption process for immigrant adoptees.
  • Civic Integration: CIS helps support new immigrants by providing programs to help them understand and integrate into American culture.

What are the 4 types of immigration status?

There are four basic categories of immigration status that one can fall into in the U.S.

  1. U.S. Citizen

A citizen is someone who was either born in the United States or has been naturalized after spending a period of time as a permanent resident. Citizens cannot be deported and can legally work and receive public benefits.

  1. Permanent or Conditional Resident

Lawful permanent residents are also called green card holders. A green card holder is an immigrant who has been authorized to live and work in the U.S. permanently. Most green card holders are sponsored by a close family member or employer.

Conditional green cards are given to people who are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident but have been married for less than two years. They are given conditional status as a way to prevent green card marriage scams. Conditional green cards are only valid for two years, and before they expire the immigrant and spouse must file to remove the conditions of residence by supplying evidence that the marriage is genuine and not being used as a way to circumvent immigration laws.

  1. Temporary Resident

Non-immigrants fall into this category. These are people who are in the U.S. legally, but only temporarily. Examples of temporary visa holders are people in the country on a student visa (F1), fiancees of U.S. citizens or permanent residents (K1), and tourists or business visitors (B1 and B2).

  1. Undocumented Immigrant

Any immigrant who is present in the U.S. without permission and authorization is referred to as undocumented. Undocumented immigrants may include people who illegally crossed the border into the U.S. or those who entered the country legally but then overstayed a temporary visa.

Undocumented immigrants are not legally able to work or access public benefits. They also risk deportation if their unlawful immigration status is discovered and reported.

What is a USCIS number?

A USCIS number is a unique 9-digit number that is assigned to noncitizens by the Department of Homeland Security. The USCIS number serves as an identification number and is listed on Permanent Resident Cards (Form I-551) issued after May 10, 2010.

What department is USCIS under?

USCIS is an agency under the Department of Homeland Security.