Do Immigrants Still Need to Go Through INS to Immigrate to the United States?

For many years, immigrants who were moving to the United States dealt with INS (Immigration and Naturalisation Service). But there has been confusion over the years about different immigration departments. Do immigrants still have to go through INS in order to move to the United States?

The Birth of USCIS

There is still confusion with those who need to navigate U.S. immigration, or in fact find a starting point. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) there were nearly 30,000 web searches for “INS” just during January 2011 alone, even though the INS has not existed since March 2003 when it was dismantled.

INS was replaced by three new components, made up of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) all of which work within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

When I went through U.S. immigration in 2002, I dealt exclusively with the INS. Then when it was time to change my immigration status to Permanent Resident, I worked with USCIS to complete the process.

The Role of USCIS

USCIS has a number of roles, but it is most predominantly responsible for helping Americans legally sponsor family members to immigrate to the United States; it provides work visas, facilitates international adoptions, provides humanitarian aid, and paves the way for legal immigrants to apply for naturalisation in due course, if they so choose. If you are thinking of moving to the United States, you will be dealing with USCIS, rather than the other two components of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Role of ICE

ICE is an agency that is investigative in nature, dealing with smuggling, immigration fraud, identity and benefit fraud and many other avenues of investigation. For example, if USCIS has a suspected case of marriage fraud, they may refer the case to ICE for further investigation. ICE has the power to deport illegal immigrants.

The Role of CBP

According to, CBP is one of the largest components of the Department of Homeland Security. This agency is responsible for keeping national borders secure by keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the United States. In addition, CBP enforces immigration and drugs laws, as well as many other regulations.

If you conduct a search for “INS” you will be automatically redirected to the USCIS homepage. INS no longer exists, but has been divided into three components that are made up of USCIS, ICE, and CBP, all of which function within the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS should be your first stop for information on legal immigration to the United States, where you will find information on immigration forms, fees, medical examination requirements and much more.


Customs and Border Protection, About CBP.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, What We Do.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ice Overview.