U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system. It is a successor to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which was dissolved by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and replaced by three components within the DHS: USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
USCIS performs many of the duties of the former INS, namely processing and adjudicating various immigration matters, including applications for work visas, asylum, and citizenship. Additionally, the agency is officially tasked with safeguarding national security, eliminating immigration case backlogs, and improving efficiency. USCIS is headed by a director, currently Lee Cissna, who reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
|U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services|
|Formed||March 1, 2003|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters||111 Massachusetts Avenue NW|
|Annual budget||$3.219 billion (2014)|
|Parent agency||United States Department of Homeland Security|
USCIS is charged with processing immigrant visa petitions, naturalization applications, asylum applications, applications for adjustment of status (green cards), and refugee applications. It also makes adjudicative decisions performed at the service centers, and manages all other immigration benefits functions (i.e., not immigration enforcement) performed by the former INS. Other responsibilities of the USCIS include:
While core immigration benefits functions remain the same as under the INS, a new goal is to process immigrants' applications more efficiently. Improvement efforts have included attempts to reduce the applicant backlog, as well as providing customer service through different channels, including the USCIS Contact Center with information in English and Spanish, Application Support Centers (ASCs), the Internet and other channels. The enforcement of immigration laws remains under Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
USCIS focuses on two key points on the immigrant's journey towards civic integration: when they first become permanent residents and when they are ready to begin the formal naturalization process. A lawful permanent resident is eligible to become a citizen of the United States after holding the Permanent Resident Card for at least five continuous years, with no trips out of the United States lasting 180 days or more. If, however, the lawful permanent resident marries a U.S. citizen, eligibility for U.S. citizenship is shortened to three years so long as the resident has been living with the spouse continuously for at least three years and the spouse has been a resident for at least three years.
USCIS handles all forms and processing materials related to immigration and naturalization. This is evident from USCIS' predecessor, the INS, (Immigration and Naturalization Service) which is defunct as of March 1, 2003.
USCIS currently handles two kinds of forms: those relating to immigration, and those related to naturalization. Forms are designated by a specific name, and an alphanumeric sequence consisting of one letter, followed by two or three digits. Forms related to immigration are designated with an I (for example, I-551, Permanent Resident Card) and forms related to naturalization are designated by an N (for example, N-400, Application for Naturalization).
The United States immigration courts and immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals which hears appeals from them, are part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) within the United States Department of Justice. (USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security.)
USCIS' official website is USCIS.gov. The site was redesigned in 2009 and unveiled on September 22, 2009.
The redesign made the web page interface more like the Department of Homeland Security's official website. The last major redesign before 2009 took place in October 2006.
Also, USCIS runs an online appointment scheduling service known as INFOPASS. This system allows people with questions about immigration to come into their local USCIS office and speak directly with a government employee about their case and so on. This is an important way in which USCIS serves the public. As of early 2019, however, many USCIS field offices are doing away with on-demand INFOPASS appointments.
Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees. Under President George W. Bush's FY2008 budget request, direct congressional appropriations made about 1% of the USCIS budget and about 99% of the budget was funded through fees. The total USCIS FY2008 budget was projected to be $2.6 billion.
USCIS consists of approximately 19,000 federal employees and contractors working at 223 offices around the world.
USCIS's mission statement was changed on February 23, 2018. Among other changes, the phrase "America's promise as a nation of immigrants" was eliminated, a move that drew criticism from immigration rights advocates and praise from those in favor of tighter restrictions on immigration.
The Administrative Appeals Office, full name USCIS Administrative Appeals Office, and also known as the AAO and USCIS AAO, is an office within United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that can be used by petitioners to appeal adverse USCIS decisions made on their petitions. It is located in Washington, D.C., and all its in-person functions (including listening to oral arguments) happens only in Washington, D.C.Aging out
Aging out is American popular culture vernacular used to describe anytime a youth leaves a formal system of care designed to provide services below a certain age level.
There are a variety of applications of the phrase throughout the youth development field. In respect to foster care, aging out is the process of a youth transitioning from the formal control of the foster care system towards independent living. It is used to describe anytime a foster youth leaves the varying factors of foster care, including home, school and financial systems. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services defines an "aging out" case as, "a situation referring to a person's petition to become a permanent legal resident as a child, and in the time that passes during the processing of the application, the child turns 18 and ages out.American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act
The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) was an act passed by the government of the United States in October 2000, pertaining to immigration to the United States. It was a complement to the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act that had been passed in 1998. The focus of AC21 was to change rules related to portability and caps for the H-1B visa to increase the effective number of visas available and make it easier for workers on those visas to switch jobs. Although the language of the Act references the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the INS would soon be restructured and the functions of the INS referenced in AC21 would be handled by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is temporary employment authorization for F-1 visa non-immigrant foreign students in the United States while enrolled in a college-level degree program.
CPT permission is granted through the institution's International Students Office or equivalent upon approval of advisor, pursuant to regulations established by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.Form I-129
Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker is a form submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services used by employers or prospective employers to obtain (or amend the details of) a worker on a nonimmigrant visa status. Form I-129 is used to either file for a new status or a change of status, such as new, continuing or changed employer or title; or an amendment to the original application. Approval of the form makes the worker eligible to start or continue working at the job (on or after the indicated start date) if already in the United States. If the worker is not already in the United States, an approved Form I-129 may be used to submit a visa application associated with that status. The form is 36 pages long (8 pages for the main form, and the remaining pages for various supplements not all of which may be applicable to every petition) and the instructions for the form are 29 pages long. It is one of the many USCIS immigration forms.Form I-130
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is a form submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (or, in the rare case of Direct Consular Filing, to a US consulate or embassy abroad) by a United States citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident petitioning for an immediate or close relative (who is not currently a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident) intending to immigrate to the United States. It is one of numerous USCIS immigration forms. As with all USCIS petitions, the person who submits the petition is called the petitioner and the relative on whose behalf the petition is made is called the beneficiary. The USCIS officer who evaluates the petition is called the adjudicator.
Approval of the petition can be used by the beneficiary to obtain a United States visa in the Immediate Relative (IR) or Family-Based Preference (F) category at a US consulate or embassy abroad, and, once the relative has immigrated to the United States, to obtain a Green Card (i.e., become a Lawful Permanent Resident). For relatives already present in the United States it can be used for Adjustment of Status to that of Lawful Permanent Resident.
For petitions filed by United States citizens, each I-130 petition can be on behalf of only one beneficiary, so a petitioner seeking to petition for multiple relatives (for instance, a spouse and children) must file separate I-130s for each of them. For lawful permanent residents, an exception is made in the case for the beneficiary's unmarried children.Form I-140
Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker is a form submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by a prospective employer to petition an alien to work in the US on a permanent basis. This is done in the case when the worker is deemed extraordinary in some sense or when qualified workers do not exist in the US. The employer who files is called the petitioner, and the alien employee is called the beneficiary; these two can coincide in the case of a self-petitioner. The form is 6 pages long with a separate 10-page instructions document as of 2016. It is one of the USCIS immigration forms.H-1B visa
The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H) that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation requires the application of specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or the equivalent of work experience. The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six years; after which the visa holder may need to reapply. Laws limit the number of H-1B visas that are issued each year: 180,440 new and initial H-1B visas were issued in 2017. Employers must generally withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from the wages paid to employees in H-1B status.
The H-1B visa has its roots in the H1 visa of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952; the split between H-1A (for nurses) and H-1B was created by the Immigration Act of 1990. 65,000 H-1B visas were made available each fiscal year, out of which employers could apply through Labor Condition Applications. Additional modifications to H1-B rules were made by legislation in 1998, 2000, in 2003 for Singapore and Chile, in the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, 2008, and 2009. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has modified the rules in the years since then.Immigration Daily
Immigration Daily (ID) is a daily newspaper on immigration law that claims more than 21,000 subscribers, and subscription is free.
Conceived in May 2000, Immigration Daily is read by attorneys, paralegals, and other readers interested in the latest developments in the immigration law field. It offers sources of information such as the news items, which feature the latest memos, cables, fact sheets and other documents from government agencies such as United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and United States Department of State.
Immigration Daily also offers different points of view in its Article section. The variety of articles it carries range from substantive immigration law to new marketing techniques available for attorneys.
Finally, with its News Headlines section, it maintains its readership up-to-date with the latest and newsworthy developments in immigration in the United States.Notice of Intent to Deny
A Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) is a notice issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to petitioners for residency, citizenship, family visas, and employment visas. Examples of petitions for which a NOID may be issued are Form I-129 (alien worker authorization), Form I-140 (immigrant worker authorization), and Form I-130 (family visas).Notice of Intent to Revoke
A Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) is a communication sent by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to a petitioner about a previously approved petition, telling him or her that the USCIS intends to revoke the petition, along with the reasons for revocation, and giving the petitioner a fixed amount of time to respond. NOIRs may be issued for immigrant visa petitions (such as Form I-130 and Form I-140) and for non-immigrant visa petitions (such as Form I-129 and Form I-129F).Premium Processing Service
Premium Processing Service refers to an optional premium service offered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to employers filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) or Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). To avail of the service, the employer needs to file Form I-907 and include a fee that (as of 2015) is $1225.Request For Evidence
A Request For Evidence (RFE), is a request issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to petitioners for residency, citizenship, family visas, and employment visas. Examples of petitions for which a RFE may be issued are Form I-129 (alien worker authorization), Form I-140 (immigrant worker authorization), and Form I-130 (family visas).Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) (sometimes also written as Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status) is a special way for minors currently in the United States to adjust status to that of Lawful Permanent Resident despite unauthorized entry or unlawful presence in the United States, that might usually make them inadmissible to the United States and create bars to Adjustment of Status. The key criterion for SIJS is abuse, neglect, or abandonment by one or both parents.Temporary protected status
Temporary protected status (also called "TPS") is a temporary status given to eligible nationals of designated countries who are present in the United States. The status, afforded to nationals from some countries affected by armed conflict or natural disaster, allows persons to live and work in the United States for limited times. Currently, persons from ten countries—Haiti, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Nicaragua; and South Sudan—have temporary protected status. About 320,000 people have TPS as of 2017, the majority from El Salvador (195,000), Honduras (57,000), and Haiti (46,000).Tenrec v. USCIS
Tenrec v. USCIS, colloquially known as the H-1B Lottery Lawsuit, was a class action lawsuit brought against United States Citizenship and Immigration Services challenging the lottery process used to decide which cap-subject H-1B Form I-129 petitions to adjudicate in case more petitions were received than the cap for the Fiscal Year. The plaintiffs were two pairs of H-1B petitioner (employer) and beneficiary (prospective employee). The case was decided against the plaintiffs, and an appeal was withdrawn after both plaintiffs withdrew.USCIS West Palm Beach Field Office
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) West Palm Beach Field Office replaced a hodge podge of USCIS offices mainly located in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. The new center was officially opened August 13, 2009. The new Field Office (actually in Royal Palm Beach) is located on the south side of Belvedere Road amongst a variety of office and commercial buildings. It has free parking, something that some of the previous buildings in West Palm Beach did not have. Directly south of the building is a long rectangular man-made pond that serves as a drainage basin for the area.This USCIS Field Office handles a variety of immigration issues, including naturalization to become United States citizens (including the oath of citizenship ceremonies) and imterim employment authorization cards for persons who are waiting for their cases to be resolved. This center processes immigration cases for eight Florida counties (Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie).As of February 2013, this Field Office was the third-busiest in Florida in having appointments concerning temporary protected status applications, with 6,325 persons applying for this status. Of the 40,130 case nationwide, 30,895 were in Florida. Temporary protected status gives those without immigration papers the right to be in the United States on a temporary basis.USCIS immigration forms
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues a number of forms for people to submit to them relating to immigrant and non-immigrant visa statuses. These forms begin with the letter "I". None of the forms directly grants a United States visa (visas can only be issued by US consulates outside the United States), but approval of these forms may provide authorization for staying or extending one's stay in the United States as well as authorization for work. Some United States visas require an associated approved USCIS immigration form to be submitted as part of the application.
Although the term immigration form is used on this page, and the forms begin with the letter "I", many of the forms pertain to non-immigrant visa classifications.
The USCIS also issues some administrative request forms (AR) for purposes such as address change as well as G forms for other administrative purposes. The AR and G forms are generally filed in conjunction with a USCIS I form. The two most important G forms are the G-28 (notice of entry or appearance of attorney) and the G-1145 (e-notification of application/petition acceptance).The USCIS also handles forms related to naturalization and citizenship. These forms begin with the letter "N" and are not discussed on this page.There are two main forms that begin with the letter I and pertain to immigration status but are not managed by USCIS: Form I-20 (issued by educational institutions to students on a F visa status) and Form I-94 (issued by United States Customs and Border Protection when an alien enters the United States).USCIS processing times
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that adjudicates petitions and processes forms related to citizenship, residency, and various kinds of authorization to live and work in the United States. Many of the forms it processes are prerequisites for people outside the United States who are not United States citizens or permanent residents to obtaining visas to enter the United States in the specified status. Many of the USCIS immigration forms have long processing times. The USCIS offers some guidance regarding expected processing times through its website and through reports. This page describes the USCIS policies, the guidance they offer, and the courses of action in case of higher processing times.
Note that these processing times do not include the processing times for U.S. Department of Labor forms (such as Labor Condition Application and labor certification) that are prerequisites for some USCIS petitions and forms, nor do they include the National Visa Center wait times for immigrant visa numbers, the wait time for getting visas from a U.S. consulate abroad, or border wait times.
Agencies under the United States Department of Homeland Security
Science and Technology Directorate
|Intelligence and Analysis|
Relevant colonial era,
United States and
|Visas and policies|
|Supreme Court cases|
and points of entry