|Formed||March 1, 2003|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters||5900 Capital Gateway Drive|
Camp Springs, MD, U.S.
|Annual budget||$4.235 billion (2021)|
|Parent agency||United States Department of Homeland Security|
|United States citizenship and immigration|
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the United States 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, which supervises the naturalization of new American citizens and lawful immigration to the United States, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which enforces laws pertaining to border control, customs, trade and immigration. Finally, we have Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which denies immigration to terrorists and individuals in with weapons, drugs or any other inadmissible possessions.
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, maintaining immigration case backlogs, and improving efficiency. USCIS is currently headed by Ur Jaddou, director, since August 3, 2021.
USCIS processes immigrant visa petitions, naturalization applications, asylum applications, applications for adjustment of status (green cards) for documented and undocumented immigrants, 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).
The founding of the USCIS was influenced by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. These events brought urgency into INS' mission of providing immigration services while upholding homeland security and prompted a remarkable change in the United States' immigration laws. The main role of American immigration policy became to reinforce border security and remove criminal aliens that could threaten the security of the country. Simultaneously, the United States remained committed to welcoming lawful immigrants and fostering their assimilation to American civic culture.
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.
Further information: USCIS immigration forms
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.[circular reference]
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).
|No.||Portrait||Director||Took office||Left office||Time in office||Party||President|
|August 15, 2003||June 16, 2005||1 year, 305 days||Republican||George W. Bush (Republican)|
|June 17, 2005||July 25, 2005||38 days||?||George W. Bush (Republican)|
|2||Emilio T. Gonzalez||December 21, 2005||April 18, 2008||2 years, 119 days||Republican||George W. Bush (Republican)|
|-||Jonathan "Jock" Scharfen|
|April 21, 2008||December 2, 2008||225 days||?||George W. Bush (Republican)|
|August 12, 2009||December 23, 2013||4 years, 133 days||Democratic||Barack Obama (Democratic)|
|December 23, 2013||July 9, 2014||198 days||?||Barack Obama (Democratic)|
|4||León Rodríguez||July 9, 2014||January 20, 2017||2 years, 195 days||Democratic||Barack Obama (Democratic)|
|January 20, 2017||March 31, 2017||70 days||?||Donald Trump (Republican)|
|-||James W. McCament|
|March 31, 2017||October 8, 2017||191 days||?||Donald Trump (Republican)|
|5||L. Francis Cissna|
|October 8, 2017||June 1, 2019||1 year, 236 days||Independent||Donald Trump (Republican)|
|June 20, 2019||November 18, 2019||151 days||Republican||Donald Trump (Republican)|
|November 18, 2019||February 20, 2020||94 days||Independent||Donald Trump (Republican)|
|February 20, 2020||January 20, 2021||335 days||Independent||Donald Trump (Republican)|
|January 20, 2021||August 3, 2021||195 days||Independent||Joe Biden (Democratic)|
|6||Ur Mendoza Jaddou|
|August 3, 2021||Incumbent||295 days||Independent||Joe Biden (Democratic)|
1 Ken Cuccinelli served from July 8, 2019 to December 31, 2019 as de facto Acting Director. His tenure as Acting Director was ruled unlawful. He remained Principal Deputy Director at USCIS for the remainder of his tenure.
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 was redesigned in 2009 and unveiled on September 22, 2009. The last major redesign before 2009 was in October 2006. The USCIS website now includes a virtual assistant, Emma, who answers questions in English and Spanish.
USCIS's website contains self-service tools, including a case status checker and address change request form. Applicants, petitioners, and their authorized representatives can also submit case inquiries and service requests on USCIS's website. The inquiries and requests are routed to the relevant USCIS center or office to process. Case inquiries may involve asking about a case that is outside of normal expected USCIS processing times for the form. Inquiries and service requests may also concern not receiving a notice, card, or document by mail, correcting typographical errors, and requesting disability accommodations.
If the self-service tools on USCIS's website cannot help resolve an issue, the applicant, petitioner, or authorized representative can contact the USCIS Contact Center. If the Contact Center cannot assist the inquirer directly, the issue will be forwarded to the relevant USCIS center or office for review. Some applicants and petitioners, primarily those who are currently outside of the United States, may also schedule appointments on USCIS's website
Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by user fees, most of it via the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA). USCIS is authorized to collect fees for its immigration case adjudication and naturalization services by the Immigration and Nationality Act. In fiscal year 2020, USCIS had a budget of US$4.85 billion; 97.3% of the budget was funded through fees and 2.7% through congressional appropriations.
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 mission statement now reads:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.