U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Identification: Bureau of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that oversees lawful immigration into the United States

Date: Began operations on March 1, 2003

Significance: The mandate given to this federal bureau was to establish immigration services, policies, and priorities that preserve the United States as a nation of immigrants by ensuring that no one is admitted into the country who may threaten public safety.

The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was created as part of the Department of Justice in 1891. It was transferred to the Department of Labor in 1940. As a result of the tragic terrorist events and aftermath associated with September 11, 2001, President GeorgeW. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act into law on November 25, 2002. This law assigned the INS to the Department of Homeland Security.On March 1, 2003, the INS officially became the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), renamed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), with the charge to oversee lawful immigration to the United States. Eduardo Aguirre was appointed as the first director of the USCIS.

Priorities of the USCIS include the promotion of national security, elimination of immigration case backlogs, and improvement of customer services. It supervises lawful permanent residency, citizenship, employment authorization, intercountry adoptions, asylum and refugee status, replacement of immigration documents, and foreign student authorization. The USCIS adjudicates immigrant visa petitions, naturalization petitions, and asylum and refugee applications. It offers a variety of resources for immigrants, including a comprehensive orientation guide and copies of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Alvin K. Benson

Further Reading

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. USCIS Issues Citizenship and Naturalization Facts. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2006. 
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Office of Citizenship. The Citizen’s Almanac: Fundamental Documents, Symbols, and Anthems of the United States. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2007. 

See also: Border Patrol, U.S.; Bureau of Immigration, U.S.; Citizenship; Constitution, U.S.; Homeland Security, Department of; Illegal immigration; Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965; Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S.; Immigration law; Naturalization.

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