Until 2002 the matter of immigration to the United States was handled by an organization called Immigration and Naturalization Services, commonly referred to as INS. However, the US government decided to restructure immigration services by grouping all of the relevant organizations into one managing organization: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Along with this restructuring, the responsibilities of INS were subdivided and given to a variety of new agencies. By doing so, oversight of the organizations can be better managed and policies better executed and developed.
Winners of the Green Card Lottery will not have a great deal of interaction with these organizations at first, but in time most of their interaction with the US government will be through the following groups.
Below, we will summarize and discuss the various duties of the important immigration organizations under the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security.
The USCIS—United States Citizenship and Immigration Services—is the organization concerned with the service aspects of the immigration processes. It is primarily concerned with handling immigration applications and the processing of forms.
Permanent Residency is granted solely by the USCIS. Green Card holders looking to become citizens must apply with the USCIS who will then analyze one’s application for eligibility.
The USCIS also handles interviews and grants work permits to visa applicants to the United States.
An interesting fact about the USCIS is that it is almost entirely funded by the fees it receives from immigrants. Taxpayers only provide a miniscule part of its budget.
The CBP—Customs and Border Protection—is much like every other customs organization from any other country in the world.
The CBP organizes and regulates the import and export of goods as well as all international trade to the United States. They are also responsible for the collection of duties and taxes upon entry to the United States.
The CBP has several enforcement powers and responsibilities that it conducts on a daily basis and is responsible for the apprehension of those individuals attempting to trespass United States regulation.
Customs and Border Protection is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States with more than 45,000 agents and it’s no wonder considering the US’ extremely large border.
ICE—Immigration and Customs Enforcement—is very similar to Customs and Border protection in that they are both responsible for law enforcement especially at the border, but the primary difference is when their duties are to be conducted.
While CBP takes a very active approach in detecting and intercepting violations of US law, ICE is more interested in conducting investigations designed to find the violators who slipped through the cracks. Their goal is also to improve the general workings of international flow in the United States.