Government Agencies

There are various government agencies involved in immigration.  Following the events of September 11, 2001, the old Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was dismantled and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created. Under DHS, there are three sister agencies charged with handling different aspects of the immigration process:

  • U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) – USCIS falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is the agency responsible for granting immigration benefits.
  • U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) – ICE is responsible for investigating and enforcing the immigration laws.  ICE is the agency that acts as opposing counsel in removal proceedings, makes arrests and detains undocumented immigrants, and conducts investigations into immigration violations.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – CBP is the agency that you will encounter at all points of entry into the U.S., whether that be the land border or at the airport when you enter the country.  CBP officers inspect your passport and visa upon entry to ensure that no foreign nationals are admitted unlawfully.

There are other agencies also involved in the immigration function. These include:

  • Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) – The EOIR falls under the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).  It is also known as the Immigration Court.  If you are in removal proceedings, you will go before an EOIR immigration judge.
  • Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) –  The BIA also falls under the DOJ.  Appeals of  Immigration Court decisions go to the BIA, which is the highest administrative body to interpret immigration law.
  • Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) – BALCA is another administrative body.  Appeals of denied PERM/Labor Certification applications are taken to BALCA.
  • Department of State (DOS) – The DOS overseas all the foreign consulates.  Consequently, applications for immigration benefits from outside the United States are often handled by the Department of State.
  • Department of Labor (DOL) – The DOL is involved in employment-based immigration. Among other things, the DOL is responsible for approving or denying Labor Certification / PERM applications.