On March 1, services currently formerly provided by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) transitioned into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services (uscis). In support of the DHS overall mission, the immediate priorities of the new uscis are to promote national security, continue to eliminate immigration adjudications backlogs, and implement solutions for improving immigration customer services. The uscis will continue efforts to fundamentally transform and improve the delivery of immigration and citizenship services.

Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (uscis)

Created as a separate bureau by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, uscis allows the DHS to improve the administration of benefits and immigration services for applicants by exclusively focusing on immigration and citizenship services. This new Bureau includes approximately 15,000 employees and contractors, and is headed by the Director of uscis, who reports directly to the Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security.

Through a network of local offices, Application Support Centers, Service Centers, local area immigration services field offices, National Customer Service Call (NCSC) Centers, Forms Centers, and the Internet, uscis processes all immigrant and non-immigrant benefits provided to visitors of the United States, including:

Family-based petitions — facilitating the process for close relatives to immigrate, gain permanent residency, work, etc.;

Employment-based petitions — facilitating the process for current and prospective employees to immigrate or stay in the U.S. temporarily;

Asylum and Refugee processing — adjudicating asylum and the processing of refugees;

Naturalization – approving citizenship of eligible persons who wish to become U.S. citizens;

Special status programs – adjudicating eligibility for U.S. immigration status as a form of humanitarian aid to foreign nationals; and,

Document issuance and renewal – including verification of eligibility, production and issuance of immigration documents.

Long-term strategies for improving immigration and citizenship service delivery will enhance uscis’s ability to annually (based on FY 2002 data):

Process and adjudicate over 7 million applications; Serve over 13 million customers via the National Customer Service Call Centers;

Serve over 6 million customers through information counters at local offices;

Serve over 6 million customers by phone through contacts at the Service Centers;

Process approximately 70,000 asylum cases; and

Perform approximately 100,000 refugee interviews.

All uscis field offices are engaged in proactive public information efforts to reassure and remind former INS customers and stakeholders of the following important customer services issues:

Official documents issued by the former INS will still be valid and will continue to be accepted by uscis and other agencies as evidence of status in the United States. uscis local offices are still located in existing INS locations, including Application Support Centers and Service Centers. There will be no immediate change in office locations. Forms should continue to be mailed to the address indicated in forms and notices. Mail addressed to the INS will continue to be processed in the same manner as it was prior to March 1. Customers are still able to download forms and check case status online (for cases pending adjudication at Service Centers). The Web address for the new uscis is www.uscis.gov. Over the last several years, INS has worked to improve immigration services in a variety of areas. Several major successes include:

Expansion of National Customer Service (NCSC) Call Center coverage enabling customers from anywhere in the U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam to call a toll-free telephone number for automated or live information about immigration services and benefits;

Implementation of Naturalization Quality Procedures (NQP) to ensure standardized processing of all applications for naturalization;

Establishment of Application Support Centers (ASCs) to standardize and automate the collection and transmittal of fingerprints to the FBI for criminal background checks; and,

Reduction in the number of pending naturalization application backlogs from more than 2 million in 1998 to less than 600,000 in 2002.