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U.S. Immigration Agencies — Understanding the Alphabet Soup of Immigration

As you interact with the United States immigration system you will encounter several acronyms and abbreviations. This is a helpful guide to the basics of this alphabet soup of U.S. immigration agencies, courts and departments you may be dealing with:

DHS — Department of Homeland Security

This is the Cabinet department that oversees U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), all of which are described below.

USCIS — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

This is the agency responsible for adjudicating immigration benefits, such as change and extension of visas; granting green cards; naturalization; and asylee and refugee matters.

CBP — U.S. Customs and Border Protection

This agency is responsible for all matters relating to the inspection of persons and goods arriving at the border.

ICE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

This agency is responsible for investigating violations of the immigration laws and enforcing the departure of non-American citizens who are not authorized to be in the United States.

AAO — Administrative Appeals Office

This is the appellate body within the USCIS that reviews USCIS decisions.

DOS — Department of State

This Cabinet department is still the primary decision-making authority over the issuance of visas. When a person applies for a visa, he or she does so overseas before an American consul, who is under the authority of the Secretary of State. Although the consular officer has the authority to issue the visa, the rules governing the requirements for the visa are promulgated and interpreted by Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security assumes control over entry of the visa-holder once they arrive at the border.

EOIR — Executive Office for Immigration Review

These are the immigration courts that decide issues of removal.

DOJ — Department of Justice

This Cabinet department oversees the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

INS — Immigration and Naturalization Service

The INS no longer exists, but for decades was the agency responsible for administering immigration policy.

IJ — Immigration Judge

This is the individual who will hear matters regarding detention and removal.

BIA — Bureau of Immigration Appeals

This agency hears appeals of decisions by immigration judges.

OSC — Office of Special Counsel

This Department of Justice agency is responsible for immigration-related employment discrimination.

OCAHO — Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer

This DOJ office hears antidiscrimination claims and cases involving sanctions imposed on employers who illegally hire foreign workers.

DOL — Department of Labor

This Cabinet department makes decisions involving the U.S. labor market and workforce issues.

BALCA — Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals

This agency within the Department of Labor reviews Department of Labor decisions.

HHS — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

HHS retains jurisdiction for some decisions made regarding unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

While there are additional agencies that may be involved in an immigration matter, these agencies are the primary agencies you will encounter when dealing with the United States immigration system. If you have a question about an immigration matter, please contact Dressel/Malikschmitt LLP for a free consultation with an immigration attorney to further discuss your immigration needs.

Categories: Immigration Law

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