Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03022644 (posted Feb. 26, 2003)"
For Immediate Release
U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
February 26, 2003
INS Assures Immigrants of Smooth Transition to Department of Homeland
WASHINGTON— As the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) transitions into
the Department of Homeland Security, the agency is reaching out to the immigrant
community nationwide to ease concerns about the impact of the change. On March
1, INS’ benefits function will become part of the new Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services (BCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security.
“Yes, the INS technically ceases to exist at the end of this month, but we are
committed to making this transition as seamless and smooth as possible for those
we serve,” said Acting INS Commissioner Michael Garcia.
To underscore that message, banners, posters, and pamphlets bearing the name of
the new bureau are being mailed out to immigration offices across the country
beginning this week. Those materials provide information about the status of INS
documents, offices, and services during the transition. The key points include:
- Official forms and documents issued by the former INS are still valid and
will continue to be accepted by BCIS and other agencies as evidence of status
in the United States.
- BCIS local offices will remain in existing INS locations, including
Application Support Centers and Service Centers. There will be no immediate
change in office locations.
- Forms should continue to be mailed to the address indicated in forms and
- The National Customer Service Call Center will continue to be available at
1-800-375-5283, or for the hearing impaired at 1-800-767-1833.
- Customers will still be able to download forms and check the status of
their case online (for cases pending adjudication at Service Centers). The new
web address for BCIS will be
The creation of a new bureau focusing exclusively on immigration benefits is
designed to enhance the quality of service received by the tens of thousands who
interact with INS every day. The BCIS will be made up of some 15,000 employees
and contractors headed by a director who reports to the Deputy Secretary for
Homeland Security. Eduardo Aguirre Jr., currently Vice Chairman and Chief
Operating Officer of the Export Import Bank of the United States, has been
nominated by President Bush as BCIS Director.
The services provided by the BCIS include: the adjudication of family and
employment-based petitions; issuance of employment authorization documents,
asylum and refugee processing; naturalization; and implementation of special
status programs such as Temporary Protected Status.
While the administration of immigration benefits will be taken over by the BCIS,
the vast majority of INS’ other functions will be incorporated into two other
new bureaus under the Department of Homeland Security. Those bureaus are:
- Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement - (BICE)
The BICE brings together approximately 14,000 employees including the
investigative and interior enforcement functions of the INS, U.S. Customs
Service, and the Federal Protective Services. This Bureau also includes
Customs air and maritime assets. By unifying several agencies’ investigative
functions, BICE will enhance the Federal government’s ability to carry out an
effective, comprehensive interior enforcement strategy. Acting INS
Commissioner Michael Garcia has been nominated by President Bush to lead the
BICE as Assistant Secretary.
- Bureau of Customs and Border Protection - (BCBP)
The BCBP consists of approximately 30,000 employees, including inspectors from
the Agricultural Quarantine Inspections, INS, and U.S. Customs, together with
the Border Patrol. The Bureau will focus its operations on the movement of
goods and people across our borders, ensuring consistent inspection procedures
and coordinated border enforcement. U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner
will serve as the Commissioner of the BCBP.
- INS -