Please note: This page is for educational purposes only.
All immigration cases are different. We strongly encourage readers
to consult our referrals page when making any immigration-related
decisions or have a question about their personal immigration cases.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a federal government agency
of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that oversees the naturalization
and immigration system. USCIS was known as the Immigration and Naturalization Services
(INS) until 2003. You can visit the USCIS website by clicking here.
USCIS has the authority to make decisions on naturalization, permanent residency, visa petitions, adjustments of status, and many more immigration petitions. Decisions are based on information provided on forms, or applications, that USCIS requires be accurately completed and in accordance with US immigration laws.
Typically, applicants will go through an immigration attorney or immigration organization to handle their cases. While petitioners can generally complete some USCIS forms themselves, it is strongly suggested that applicants consult with an accredited and/or qualified attorney or non-profit organization before sending information to USCIS. Refugees can typically consult with their resettlement agency for more information.
It is common for an attorney or organization to charge a reasonable fee for their services, including any consulting services they provide clients. However scams are common in the immigration field. For information on how to avoid scams, fraud, and other predatory immigration practices, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I become a US citizen?
Generally, people become US citizens through birth right or naturalization. People born in the United States, or born abroad to US citizen parents, are automatically US citizens. Naturalization involves a process through which an eligible non-US citizen applies with Form N-400. For more information on citizenship and naturalization, click here.
What is a green card?
A Permanent Residency Card, also known as a Green Card, is an official document that allows people to live and work permanently in the US. In most cases, Green Card holders are eligible for naturalization after 3-5 years. There are several ways to obtain a green card, depending on the category eligibility categories. For more information on green cards, click here.
How do I get a green card?
How a green card is obtained depends on the person's category. Some categories include family, employment, special immigrant, refugee status, human trafficking victims, and more. For more information on green card categories, click here.
What is the cost of an immigration attorney?
Immigration attorney fees can vary by several factors: location, the attorney, and immigration case. Complex immigration cases generally have higher rates. It is common for an attorney to charge consultation fees in order to determine a client's eligibility for the immigration benefit they are applying for. Even minor consultations can carry a fee. Many non-profit organizations offer immigration and legal services at a lower rate than immigration attorneys. Visit our immigration non-profits page to learn more.
How much does a USCIS application cost?
USCIS application fees vary by form. For the complete USCIS fee schedule, click here.
Are there fee waivers for USCIS forms?
Low income households may be eligible for reduced or waived fees on select USCIS forms. Visit the USCIS fee waiver guidance page to learn more. Many attorneys, accredited representatives, and organizations also provide reduced fees for their legal services.
I want to bring family members to the US. How do I do that?
The ability to sponsor or petition family members to come to the US varies on many factors. The petitioner's status determines their eligibility to bring certain family members to the US. For instance, US citizens can petition to bring their non-US citizen parents living abroad to the US as Legal Permanent Residents. Permanent Residents can petition to bring their children to the US, depending on the child's age and marital status. It is important to consult with a qualified attorney, or accredited representative to determine eligibility.
Am I authorized to work?
There are several ways to indicate work authorization. The most common way is to show proof of US citizenship (US passport or birth certificate), Legal Permanent Resident status (Green Card), or an Employment Authorization Document (I-766/EAD). If you already have a Green Card, you do not need to apply for an I-766/EAD, as the Green Card will suffice as proof of work authorization.
Since the COVID-19 public health emergency, I-766/EAD applications have been impacted by a severe backlog. We strongly encourage people to check in with their resettlement agency or caseworker on the status of their I-766/EAD.
What happens after I submit an immigration form?
After USCIS receives your application, you will receive Form I-797C, Notice of Action. Read the message carefully as it may indicate receipt, approval, rejection, or a scheduling of a biometric appointment. Typically, the first Notice of Action will be a confirmation of receipt if all documentation provided with the application is in order. If further information is needed, USCIS will send a follow up Notice of Action.
How long will it take for my application process?
All immigration cases are different and will have varying processing times. For instance, naturalization applications can take between
4-6 months, while US citizen petitions for siblings living abroad can take up to 10-15 years in many cases.
It is common for immigration cases to fall outside of normal processing time.. USCIS offers an online tool where you can check the status of your petition online.
What is a biometric appointment?
A biometric appointment is an important part of an immigrant's application process. The screening includes a fingerprint scan of the individual applying for an immigration benefit in order to investigate any serious criminal history and/or immigration violations. Generally, a biometric appointment lasts less than an hour.
What if I can't make my USCIS appointment?
We strongly encourage people to attend their appointments, including biometrics screenings, naturalization, and any other appointments with USCIS. While it is likely that USCIS will schedule an appointment during business hours, these appointments are important and help maintain a normal processing time of applicant's petitions. Should you need to reschedule an appointment, you can contact the USCIS service center at
800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833). Please note that rescheduling appointments with USCIS may not be able to reschedule your appointment for another 4-8 weeks.