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Our History

On March 1, 2003, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officially assumed responsibility for the immigration service functions of the federal government. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107–296, 116 Stat. 2135) dismantled the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and separated the former agency into three components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

We were formed to enhance the security and improve the efficiency of national immigration services by exclusively focusing on the administration of benefit applications. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), components within DHS, handle immigration enforcement and border security functions.

We benefit from a legacy of more than 100 years of federal immigration and naturalization administration. Below you will find a brief chronology of our institutional history:

1891 Office of Superintendent of Immigration created and placed in the Treasury Department
1895Office of Superintendent of Immigration upgraded to Bureau of Immigration
1903Bureau of Immigration transferred to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor
1906 Naturalization Service created and Bureau of Immigration became the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization
1913 Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization divided into separate Bureaus – the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization – and placed in the new Department of Labor
1924 U.S. Border Patrol created within the Bureau of Immigration
1933 The Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization reunited into a single agency, the INS
1940The INS transferred from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice
2003The INS was abolished and its functions placed under three agencies – USCIS, ICE and CBP – within the newly created DHS

Researchers interested in our history, predecessor agencies and immigration and nationality law may contact the USCIS History Office by writing to cishistory.library@dhs.gov  or calling 202-272-8370.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 05/25/2011