Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

Aliens seeking immigration benefits in the United States must generally request benefits by filing the appropriate USCIS form(s) with USCIS.[1] Proper submission of benefit requests provides USCIS the opportunity to determine whether a person is initially eligible for the benefit requested and facilitates an efficient management of requests.[2]

B. Background

With the Immigration Act of 1891, the federal government assumed direct control of inspecting, admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the United States.[3] On January 2, 1892, the Immigration Service opened Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The Immigration Service began collecting arrival manifests from each incoming ship. Inspectors then questioned arrivals about their admissibility and noted their admission or rejection on the manifest records.[4]

Over the years, different federal government departments and offices have adjudicated immigration benefit requests. The process of submitting benefit requests has also changed over time. Today, requestors generally seek benefits from USCIS by submitting specific forms; the forms also help guide requestors in collecting and submitting necessary evidence. USCIS uses forms to establish the record, verify identity, and adjudicate the benefit request.

USCIS is primarily funded by immigration and naturalization benefit request fees charged to applicants and petitioners.[5] Fees collected from individuals and entities filing immigration benefit requests are deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA). These fee collections fund the cost of fairly and efficiently adjudicating immigration benefit requests, including those provided without charge to refugee, asylum, and certain other applicants.

C. Legal Authorities

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

  • 8 CFR 103.2 - Submission and adjudication of benefit requests 

  • 8 CFR 103.7 - Fees


1. [^] See 8 CFR 103.2(a)(1).

2. [^] The terms “benefit request” and “immigration benefit request,” as used in this Part, include, but are not limited to, all requests funded by the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA). These terms may also refer to forms or requests not directly resulting in an immigration benefit, such as those resulting in an exercise of prosecutorial discretion by DHS.

3. [^] See Pub. L. 55-551 (March 3, 1891).

4. [^] See the USCIS History and Genealogy website for additional information. See Overview of Legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) History (PDF, 285 KB).

5. [^] See INA 286(m). See 8 CFR 103.7(c)

8 CFR 103.2 - Submission and adjudication of benefit requests

8 CFR 103.7 - Fees

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”].


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