What is USCIS?

Foreign nationals from all over the world immigrate to the US to reunite with family members, or in search of a better life. Some come for an advanced education, some for a visit, while others work in a wide variety of business sectors, providing services ranging from unskilled labor to highly specialized positions.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that oversees immigration of foreign nationals who wish to temporarily or permanently settle in the United States and is the authority that grants or denies immigration benefits to those individuals.

The USCIS was established on March 1, 2003 as one branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It enjoys a legacy of more than 100 years of federal immigration and naturalization administration. Before its inception, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was responsible for all matters related with immigration, including administrative and investigative functions. After the drastic events of September 11, 2001, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was passed, which resulted in the dismantling of the INS into three agencies within the DHS to safeguard national security and improve efficiency.

The USCIS which is responsible for immigration service functions and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bureaus take care of immigration enforcement and border security functions. The USCIS was briefly named the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), before taking the name USCIS.

99% of USCIS’ budget comes from fees the USCIS collects from processing millions of immigration benefit applications and petitions every year.

The mission of the USCIS is to secure America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to it’s customers. Apart from granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, they ensure the integrity of the immigration system. There are 18,000 government employees and contractors of USCIS working at 250 offices across the world.

USCIS’ main goal is to strengthen the security and integrity of the immigration system and provide effective customer-oriented immigration benefits and information services. Apart from these, supporting immigrants’ integration, participating in American civic culture and promoting flexible and sound immigration policies and programs form an important part of its responsibilities.

Considering the present situation of increased global threats and national security challenges, the main responsibility of the USCIS is to provide immigration service in a manner that strengthens and fortifies the nation. The USCIS is mindful of exercising a holistic approach to vigilance as they perform their mission. They carefully administer every aspect of their immigration mission so that new immigrants and citizens can hold in high regard the privileges and advantages of lawful presence in the United States.

Apart from processing all the immigration petitions/applications, USCIS also provides instructions and training on citizenship rights and responsibilities and provides immigrants with the necessary information and tools to successfully integrate into American civic culture. They also administer humanitarian programs that gives protection to individuals inside and outside the US who are displaced by war, famine and civil and political unrest.