USA Immigration and Naturalization

Immigration means the entrance of a foreign or alien person into another country (signifies America in this context) with the intention of permanently residing in that country. The US laws presumes anyone entering into their country as an immigrant. Naturalization is the process by which a foreign-born person becomes a US citizen.

All issues relating to immigration and naturalization in America is handled by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Previously, United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was a component of the United States Department of Justice. However, on March 1st 2003, it ceased to exist. On this day, the reins were handed over to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

There are three agencies within this department that took over the functions of the INS. They are as follows:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) was part of the US Department of Justice. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) agency looked after the administration services relating to immigration and naturalization. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) also included services relating to permanent residence, asylum and other functions. However, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) agency existed only for a short time. After this, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) changed its name to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

TheUS Citizenship and Immigration Services’s main priority is to promote the security of the nation. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeks to nullify backlogs in immigration cases and improve the service it offers to customers. A director heads this bureau and directly reports to the Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security. The major functions performed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are:

  • Processing petitions relating to immigrant visa, naturalization, etc,
  • Processing applications relating to asylum and refugee,
  • Making decisions relating to adjudication,
  • Granting citizenship,
  • Granting status of lawful permanent resident,
  • All administrative functions relating to immigration services and benefits,
  • Issuing Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) and
  • Managing all other immigration benefit duties.

All the forms and other documents and materials relating to immigration and naturalization are handled by the USCIS. All forms have an alphanumeric sequence, i.e. a letter of alphabet followed by two to three numeric digits. The forms relating to immigration are named with an I and the forms relating to naturalization are named with an N. Some examples are given below:

I-129: Petition for a non-immigrant worker

I-130: Petition for an Alien Relative

I-90: Application to replace Permanent Resident card

N-400: Application for Naturalization

N-600: Application for Certificate of Citizenship

All these forms are available in the US Citizenship and Immigration Services's (USCIS) website and it is better to download it here rather than at any other site as it is current and proper here. Some forms can be filed electronically. Most of the forms have some filing fees and this should be paid to Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Both of the agencies, the Federal Protective Service and the Federal Air Marshal Service, forming a part of the US Customs Investigators were assigned the duty of investigative and enforcement functions. The ICE has the duty and responsibility to identify, investigate and dismantle any vulnerabilities in issues relating to the country’s border, transportation, economic and infrastructure security.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has its headquarters in Washington D.C. The responsibility of investigating and enforcing more than 400 federal statutes in America rests with this agency. Thus the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents have the most wide investigative authority in American government.

To put it in simple terms, the mission of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is to preserve public safety and protect America from terrorism and criminal activities. They target anything – people, money, materials and so on – that threaten the safety of America and its people. They rightly have the motto, "Integrity, Courage, and Excellence".

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Previously, The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) performed various border functions along with the Border Patrol. Now, these have been handed over to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who get a helping hand from the US Customs Inspectors.

More than 40, 000 employees work for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to dispense its various functions. The main functions of the CBP are listed below:

  • To regulate and facilitate the international trade
  • To collect the import duties
  • To enforce the American trade laws
  • To prevent terrorist and terrorist weapons from entering into America
  • To prevent individuals from entering into US illegally
  • To stop flow of illegal drugs into America
  • To protect US Agriculture from harmful pests
  • To protect US Businesses from theft of their intellectual property.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has four main offices to carry on its varied functions. They are:

  1. The Office of Field Operations (OFO)
  2. The Office of Border Patrol (United States Border Patrol)
  3. The Office of CBP Air & Marine
  4. The Office of Intelligence and Operations Coordination (OIOC)

Apart from this, the Container Security Initiative is also controlled by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This agency is involved in identifying and inspecting cargo from other countries in that country itself before it is imported into America.

From 1996 onwards, the laws relating to legal and illegal immigrants have been made very harsh. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) have imposed various offences for which immigrants, including green card holders, can be deported. In fact, more than a million individuals have been deported since 1996.