INS Assures Immigrants of Smooth Transition to Dep’t of Homeland Security

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 Security

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 notices.
  • 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 -

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03022644.