Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

USCIS is the government agency that administers lawful immigration to the United States. USCIS has nearly 20,000 government employees and contractors working at more than 200 offices around the world. USCIS ensures its employees have the knowledge and tools needed to administer the lawful immigration system with professionalism. USCIS provides accessible, reliable, and accurate guidance and information about its public services.

This part provides guidance on USCIS public services, privacy, online tools, and other general administration topics.

B. Background

On March 1, 2003, USCIS assumed responsibility for the immigration service functions of the federal government. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 dismantled the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and separated the agency into three components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). [1]

The Homeland Security Act created USCIS to enhance the security and efficiency of national immigration services by focusing exclusively on the administration of benefit applications. The law also formed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to oversee immigration enforcement and border security.

USCIS benefits from a legacy of more than 100 years of federal immigration and naturalization administration. [2] The Agency History page on USCIS’ website provides information about the agency’s history, presents research from the History Office’s historians, and makes selected historical documents available electronically.

C. Mission Statement

USCIS administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values. [3]

D. Legal Authorities

  • Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107–296 (PDF) [4] – Dismantled the INS and created USCIS to enhance the security and efficiency of national immigration services by focusing exclusively on the administration of benefit applications

  • Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a (PDF), as amended [5] – Establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about persons that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Pub. L. 93-112 (PDF) [6] – Ensuring persons with a disability are not excluded from participation in or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any federal agency


1. [^] See Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107–296 (PDF), 116 Stat. 2135 (November 25, 2002).

2. [^] See the Organizational Timeline page on USCIS’ website.

3. [^] See the About Us page on USCIS’ website.

4. [^] See Pub. L. 107–296 (PDF), 116 Stat. 2135 (November 25, 2002).

5. [^] See Pub. L. 93-579 (PDF), 88 Stat. 1896 (December 31, 1974).

6. [^] See Section 504 of Pub. L. 93-112 (PDF), 87 Stat. 355, 394 (September 26, 1973).

29 U.S.C. 701 - Rehabilitation Act

5 U.S.C. 552a(b) - Conditions of disclosure

INA 103, 8 CFR 103 - Powers and duties of the Secretary, the Under Secretary, and the Attorney General


No forms available at this time.


No appendices available at this time.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

October 08, 2019

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].



POLICY ALERT - USCIS Public Services

May 10, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual regarding services USCIS provides to the public, including general administration of certain immigration benefits, online tools, and up-to-date information.



POLICY ALERT - Customer Service

August 26, 2014

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance on its standards in customer service.


Current as of


Current as of