What Is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, also called USCIS, is a government agency tasked with regulating legal immigration into the United States. This agency is responsible for granting or denying citizenship and processing citizenship applications.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. It is funded by money collected from applicants who are applying to become citizens of the United States, as well as petitioners. USCIS was formed in 2003. It assumed the role of handling immigration in the United States from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service department. The USCIS was enacted through the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which broke down the INS into three separate departments and created USCIS, says the USCIS.

The USCIS is specifically tasked with processing and regulating applications. The other two departments in charge of regulating homeland security and immigration are Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. These two agencies are tasked with monitoring the entrance of immigrants into the United States. They are responsible for physical border control and enforcing immigration laws and policies.

Grant Program
While the other two federal departments handle the physical aspects of border security and immigration, USCIS accepts and processes applications for U.S. citizenship. One way USCIS carries out this task is through a special grant program that awards organizations within states with financial assistance to help immigrants move from being permanent citizens to becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. Through this program, USCIS assists immigrants in 37 states and the District of Columbia. In September 2017, the USCIS was awarded nearly $10 million to distribute to nonprofit and private organizations that exist nationwide to help with immigration, according to the USCIS. The program currently allocates funding to 45 organizations around the country.

Since starting in 2009, the USCIS grant program has helped approximately 190,000 permanent residents of the United States get ready for full citizenship. By 2019, the program is expected to assist approximately 25,000 more permanent residents with the preparation they need to become citizens of the United States, notes the USCIS. Funds from the program are designed to equip organizations with the financial resources they need to provide education and training for permanent residents who need to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing and speaking English before they can become naturalized citizens. Permanent residents must also demonstrate a basic knowledge of American history and an understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

Grants awarded through the USCIS program allow cooperating organizations to hire instructors and necessary equipment to teach permanent residents this information. Organizations can be either faith-based groups, community organizations, non-profit organizations or literacy organizations. They must have prior experience in providing relocation assistance and education for immigrants to receive grant funding, and they may only exist to help immigrants legally enter the country.

Additional Services
The USCIS is also responsible for controlling and processing applications for Green Cards and U.S. citizenship. Information and materials for those applications can be found on the USCIS website, notes USA.gov. People can also visit the agency's website to apply for a Green Card that has been lost or needs to be renewed. Those who have previously submitted applications can go to the USCIS site to check their status.