There can be some confusion about the INS and the USCIS, largely due to outdated online information and some outdated US immigration documents available out there. However, the two agencies are not the same. The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) used to be the US immigration agency in charge of immigration forms and applications. However, this agency was abolished in 2003.
In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security was created, in part due to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. In 2001, a number of questions were raised about the ways in which immigrants are tracked once they enter the US and questions were also raised about the ways that immigration laws are enforced. These questions arose after it was revealed that some of that participants of the attacks on the World Trade Center had in fact immigrated to the US and had overstayed their visas but had never been tracked or pinpointed as a threat. As a result of this security threat, the processes of the INS were criticized. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security was created to provide better security for all US residents and immigrants during the immigration process.
The Department of Homeland Security has three main agencies, each representing a different area of focus and responsibility. One of these agencies is the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). The USCIS is the current agency responsible for citizenship and US immigrations services. The USCIS develops US immigration forms and immigrants send US immigration applications to this agency for approval. The USCIS is the agency that decides about naturalization applications, visa applications, and similar petitions.
Other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security include the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) and ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The CBP keeps US borders safe and secure while the ICE enforces and investigates all laws pertaining to customs and immigration.
While some people may still refer to the INS when discussing the US immigration agency, the agency is purely historical now. Many of the duties and responsibilities of what was once the INS now fall under the jurisdiction of the USCIS, CBP, or ICE. If you are applying for any visa or immigration application, it is important to use the latest USCIS forms and applications Ãš no INS forms and applications are accepted any more, so the information which applies to the INS is no longer current for today’s applications. You can visit the USCIS website to find the current information you need.