Perhaps you are starting out with your research on immigration and related procedures and you relied on old people for advice, often, they will tell you how their experience was through the INS, which is the Immigration and Naturalization Service department of the US Dept of Justice. Older and less informed individuals might tell you to search online or in libraries about INS forms, policies and related topics. Fortunately after your search for about 2 minutes of not finding INS related websites and clicking through to the sites that seem to contain immigration and INS, you would be redirected to USCIS. This is not a conspiracy! The INS does not exist anymore!!
Since March 1st, 2003, as a part of the reorganization of government agencies to better suit the needs of President Bush Jr’s need to protect America from terrorists, several functional departments were terminated and re-created in other agencies. The INS was one of the the departments that got broken up so that the government can handle the functions separately in hopes of improving. The entire INS was under Dept of Justice and it handled everything from processing new immigrant, issuing green cards, issuing visas, changing status, work permits, granting citizenship, deportation, immigration officers at ports of entry such as airports and seaports, and many more. Before 2003, anything that had to do with either immigration or coming into America, had to be done through INS. The INS issued numbered forms and applications as well which are predecessors to the forms USCIS uses today. Since declaring his war on terror, President Bush Jr, dismantled INS and reorganized it into several different departments.
The Dept of Justice, which used to own INS, still exist but do not handle any immigration related issues or crimes. Everything was transferred over to a new department, called Dept of Homeland Security. In essence, Bush simply wanted to separate domestic and foreign matters into different departments. In the newly formed Dept of Homeland Security, several agencies were formed to replace INS. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Custom Border Protection (CBP) were created to handle what was used to be solely under the control of INS. Like a Fortune 500 company trying to modularize its departments and streamline its processes, Bush made 3 separate agencies to reduce the immigration related work that was done by INS into smaller, more manageable pieces. The USCIS is still the primary organization of the three. This is the new agency that will handle all your immigration visa status changes, green card applications, citizenship applications, issuing work permits and advanced parole documents. The USCIS still uses the same number forms that INS used to issue and in fact, if you get your hands on an older outdated I-130 form, you will see that it says Dept of Justice on the top with INS wording. This is the main agency that most immigrants deal with when applying for green cards, citizenship or adjusting, extending and changing visa status. The Dept of State is still the one issuing visas in overseas US embassies and consulates. The second agency that was created, ICE, is a more limited role. This is a strictly policing and enforcing agency that was created for immigration related crimes and legal proceedings. Whereas before INS also handled finding and deporting illegal immigrants, now it is part of ICE’s job. Whenever a suspect is arrested, if he is not a US legal resident or in the US legally, ICE is called to investigate and possibly start the suspect in immigration courts. Also, if you have a tip on illegal immigrants, ICE is the agency to call to get immigration police to come out to investigate. ICE is now the new ‘La Migra’ that used to be a part of INS. The last agency out of the triumvirate is the CBP. CBP is mainly at the ports of entries in America, in all airports, seaports and land border checkpoints. They are the staff that handles verifying incoming immigrants, handle the checking of goods imported or brought in personally by passengers. The CBP officer at the immigration checkpoint is the one with the power to refuse your entry into America based on his or her discretion. The CBP officer can also let you in on a warning if they are nice to you (say you forgot to bring the latest I-20 endorsed for travel but you were nice and just plead ignorance). The CBP also checks cargo of ships and airplanes that come in and seize any illegal drugs or forbidden products such as seeds and exotic meats.
So, coming into America you have likely to encounter all three. When you first arrived, you are greeted and inspected by a CBP officer. Once in the country, you mainly deal with USCIS for immigration issues until you commit a crime or you overstayed your visa; in which case you may get a nasty visit from ICE which will deport you. ICE is the only one that you don’t want to see in your immigration journey to America. On this website there is simply no mention of INS and INS forms because USCIS handles it now. So from now on, after reading this post, you have been informed that searching for INS and INS forms is not the correct way to start your immigration application research. From now on, search only USCIS and USCIS forms.