Immigration And Naturalization Services

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Immigration and naturalization services are provided primarily by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), which has had these responsibilities only since March 1, 2003. Taking over the services/benefits part of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service INS), the BCIS has been able to focus on these services now that investigation and enforcement have been transferred to another agency. With a clearer mission, the BCIS will, hopefully, avoid the pitfalls and criticism of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which combined all these duties into one agency.

While most visas for visitors are issued by the Department of State (DOS), the BCIS oversees citizenship, asylum, refugee status, permanent residency, employment authorization, family immigration, and foreign student authorization. Most of the employees and staff that provide immigration and naturalization services are in local offices and service centers whose jurisdiction covers all 50 states and U.S. territories. The annual budget for the BCIS to provide all these services and benefits is over 750 million dollars.

Immigration and Naturalization Services from Start to Finish

The BCIS states its mission as providing correct and timely information, and processing benefit applications in a courteous and professional manner. From the time an application or petition is filed, the BCIS assists clients in getting through the steps to completion of immigration and naturalization services. Whether that is the issuance of a final document, or taking an oath for citizenship, the BCIS is involved until case records are closed.

Recently, there has been a significant rise in the number of applicants and petitioners for benefits. BCIS has had to deal with this increase in American immigration by hiring more staff, revising and streamlining processes, and introducing new programs intended to increase productivity and customer satisfaction. This is a new agency, in effect, and it has had to cope with the dramatic consequences of 9/11 and the increased attention given to immigration and naturalization services.

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