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What is the USCIS?

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency assigned in overseeing the lawful immigration of foreign nationals who are temporarily or permanently settling in the United States and is responsible for granting or denying immigration benefits to those individuals.

The Unites States of America is often described as a “Melting Pot”. People from all over the world immigrate here in search of a better life for themselves and/or their families. Others come here seeking an advanced education at our colleges and universities. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency assigned in overseeing the lawful immigration of foreign nationals who are temporarily or permanently settling in the United States and is responsible for granting or denying immigration benefits to those individuals. But besides legal entry, the USCIS also tackles those that illegally enter the United States, making sure that those individuals do not receive benefits, such as social security or unemployment benefits, and investigating, detaining, and deporting those illegally living in the United States.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was established on March 1, 2003 and is under purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Before that date, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was responsible for all things related with immigration, including administrative and investigative functions. After the events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Congress passed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which led to the dismantling of the INS into three agencies within the DHS to enhance national security and improve efficiency: the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is responsible for immigration service functions, such as those listed below; and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bureaus, which handle immigration enforcement and border security functions. The USCIS was briefly named the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), before becoming USCIS.

Unlike most other federal agencies, the majority of the USCIS’ budget (99%) comes from fees the USCIS collects from processing millions of immigration benefit applications and petitions annually.

Some of the services provided by the USCIS are:

* Citizenship (Includes the Related Naturalization Process): Individuals who wish to become US citizens through naturalization submit their applications, such as the Form N-400, to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. The USCIS determines eligibility, processes the applications and, if approved, schedules the applicant for a ceremony to take the Oath of Allegiance. The USCIS can help in determining the eligibility and provide documentation of U.S. citizenship for people who acquired U.S. citizenship through their parents by using Form N-600.

* Immigration of Family Members: USCIS also manages the process that allows current permanent residents and US citizens to bring close relatives to live and work in the United States by submitting forms such as the Form I-130.

* Working in the US: USCIS manages the process that allows individuals from other countries to come and work in the United States. Some of the opportunities are temporary, and some provide a path to a green card (permanent residence).

* Verifying an Individual’s Legal Right to Work in the United States: USCIS manages the system that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.

* Humanitarian Programs for Asylees and Refugees: USCIS administers humanitarian programs that provide protection to individuals inside and outside the United States who are displaced by war, famine and civil and political unrest, and those who are forced to flee their countries to escape the risk of death and torture at the hands of persecutors.

* Adoptions: USCIS manages the first steps in the process for US citizens to adopt children from other countries.

* Civic Integration: USCIS promotes instruction and training on citizenship rights and responsibilities and provide immigrants with the information and tools necessary to successfully integrate into American civic culture.