Navigating the U.S. immigration system is not an easy task – especially when multiple federal agencies are involved in enforcing U.S. immigration laws. To assist you in sorting through all of these agencies, here is a quick overview of the main agencies involved and their roles.
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) are all branches of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that enforce immigration law.
- USCIS is responsible for processing most immigration petitions and applications. This also includes conducting interviews for applicants applying for permanent resident status (or a “green card”) or for citizenship. One important point to keep in mind is that USCIS does not issue visas, but rather approves petitions and applications necessary to apply for certain visa classifications. It is also the entity that can extend or change the status of a foreign national already in the U.S.
- CBP is responsible for protecting U.S. borders and admitting individuals into the country. CBP officers review your passport and visa at the customs lines and desks at airports and bridge crossing points. They determine whether an individual is eligible to enter the U.S. and their authorized length of stay in the U.S.
- ICE is the enforcement arm of DHS that is responsible for detention, deportations, and raids on businesses and homes. It also conducts audits on employers regarding their Form I-9 compliance and runs the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) for students on F and M visas.
Department of Labor
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration department includes the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC). Employers wishing to hire foreign workers or to sponsor them for a green card often must file certain forms with the OFLC prior to doing so. This includes the Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers (LCA) for prospective H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 employees and the Application for Permanent Employment Certification (“PERM”) for an employment-based green card.
Department of State
For immigration purposes, the Department of State (DOS) manages the issuance of all immigrant and nonimmigrant U.S. visas. This includes the management of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad as well as the National Visa Center. The embassies and consulates are responsible for issuing visas to individuals wishing to enter the U.S. as a visitor for business or tourism, temporary workers, or foreign students. They also issue immigrant visas to individuals applying for permanent resident status (a “green card”) abroad.
Department of Justice
Within the Department of Justice (DOJ) is the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). The EOIR encompasses the immigration courts, where individuals attend deportation proceedings, and also the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which hears appeals of immigration court decisions.
For a more comprehensive review on each of these departments and their specific roles, please review Margaret (“Peggy”) McCormick’s article published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) entitled Agencies that Affect Immigration Law. The full reprint is below.
Please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Minsky, McCormick and Hallagan if you have questions regarding immigration in general or your own immigration case.