Our History

USCIS has a legacy of more than 100 years of federal immigration and naturalization administration. 

Federal oversight of immigration began in 1891, when Congress created the first Office of Immigration in the Treasury Department. As immigration grew over the following decades, so did the duties of federal immigration employees. By 1906, lawmakers voted to reform the nation’s pathway to citizenship, and the Bureau of Immigration added oversight of naturalization to its responsibilities.

The next major transformation came during the Great Depression in 1933, when the president ordered the consolidation of federal immigration and naturalization functions into the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). INS oversaw the immigration process, enforcement, and border patrol activities for seventy years until Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107–296, 116 Stat. 2135).

On March 1, 2003, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) assumed responsibility for the immigration service functions of the federal government. USCIS was founded to enhance the security and efficiency of national immigration services by focusing exclusively on the administration of benefit applications. The Homeland Security Act created Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to oversee immigration enforcement and border security.  

Students and scholars interested in conducting in-depth research on the history of federal immigration and nationality administration should consult our Research Guides.

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

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