Looking for INS and INS forms? It doesn’t exist anymore! The USCIS, ICE and CBP have taken over


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.

J-2 dependent visa for J-1 visa holder spouses and dependents


If you are thinking about coming to the USA on a J-1 visa and you don’t want to leave your family behind, don’t worry, you can take them with you to America! All they have to do is apply for the J-2 visa when you are applying for your J-1 visa. The process is exactly the same as the J-1 visa process and therefore the organization that is sponsoring your J-1 visa must also issue DS-2019 for each J-2 visa application. Keep in mind there are certain limitations for J-2 visa eligibility. It is only intended to be used for the J-1 visa holder’s family; not domestic partners or boyfriend/girlfriends. If the J-2 is for a partner in the relationship, the partner must be legally married and you must be able to provide evidence of marriage such as a marriage certificate. If the J-2 is for your child, you must provide evidence such as birth certificate or adoption decrees.

Because the J-2 visa is strictly for J-1 visa holder’s family, it is really intended for exchange visitors such as post-doctoral researchers, government visitors, physicians, professors, or specialists. Those who are getting a J-1 visa for camp counselor, au pair, summer work travel and secondary school students are NOT allowed to bring their family through a J-2 visa. It makes sense because in those categories, which are typically young people, they really should not have a family already. The J-1 visa program in the “young” category is designed for short term experiences in America. It is meant for young people to travel to America, experience the culture and also earn a living through typical American summer jobs. The only possible exception is a camp counselor but unfortunately it is simply not allowed.

The J-2 visa holder does not necessarily have to apply at the same time as the J-1 visa holder. The J-1 visa holder can go to America first, and after a while if the spouse/dependents want to also go to America, the J-1 visa holder would simply ask the program sponsor to issue DS-2019s for each person that want to get a J-2 visa. After getting the DS-2019, the spouse/dependents would apply for a J-2 visa in the same exact procedure as the J-1 visa. Keep in mind that the J-1 visa holder MUST go to America first; the Department of State does not allow the J-2 visa holder to go to America before the J-1 primary visa applicant. Everyone can go at the same time, but if everyone is going at different times, the J-1 visa holder is the primary applicant and he/she must go to America first.

The J-2, unlike F-2 or H-4 dependent visas, actually allows the visa holder to work legally in any field and also go to school freely. It is actually one of the least restrictive dependent visas. The J-2 visa holder simply needs to apply for employment authorization through USCIS using I-765 and can receive an employment authorization card (EAD) which would permit the visa holder to work unrestricted in America. The J-2 visa holder can also study without having to apply for F-1 visas. There are no restrictions on what study program the J-2 visa holder would like to pursue and no extra forms or USCIS applications to fill out. The J-2 visa holder can simply apply, if admitted, register for classes! Keep in mind though, the J-2 visa is a dependent visa. If the J-1 primary visa applicant has to depart the country because the program ended or for whatever reason, the J-2 visa holder must also leave. Therefore, if the J-2 visa holder signs up for a 4 year undergraduate degree and the J-1 visa holder has to leave the country after 2 years, the J-2 visa holder, if they wish to continue studying in America, must change status to F-1. The J-2 visa also has no travel restrictions and allows the holder to travel in and out of the country freely without worrying about having a job to return to or school to continue studies. As long as the J-1 primary visa applicant is still in America, the J-2 visa holder has the same privileges to travel internationally as a permanent resident or citizen of USA.

In conclusion, don’t be put off by leaving your family behind in your home country while you are in America on a J-1 visa; just get them a J-2 visa! It is really one of the best dependent visas and truly lets your spouse and dependents to experience America in a way that is almost the same as a green card holder. The J-2 visa holders are free to work or study as a green card holder, without much restrictions and USCIS applications.