INS – Immigration and Naturalization Service – is still Everywhere

INS will never die, or so it appears. Why? Six years after INS – Immigration and Naturalization Service – ceased to exist, the term “INS” is being searched 4 million times around the globe on Google, in a single month. As a comparison, only 1 million for its successor, USCIS.

I’m not sure if the long lasting memory of INS is complimentary, or embarrassing. For one, if millions of people still associate INS with immigration, maybe tremendous brand value is being wasted. But maybe it is irrelevant, since we are talking about a government agency which has absolute authority over a particular area. For a private business, however, it would be a disaster had the same thing happened.

Can you imagine Apple changing its name to Mango? At least mango looks remotely like a computer mouse.

INS Logo

INS Logo

When INS was the King, it not only handled immigration services, but also immigration law enforcement. Its Operations division managed INS regional centers, districts, local offices, and international offices. They were responsible for processing millions of visa, immigration and naturalization petitions every year. The Programs division was responsible for law enforcement, including apprehension, detention and deportation of illegal immigrants. INS was also in charge of patrolling the border and ports of entry.

When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took over INS from the Department of Justice, however, the government wanted to split its core functions. So in March, 2003, the mighty INS came to an end. All service related activities were moved to the newly created United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), while immigration law enforcement became part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and border patrol joined Customs and Border Protection (CBP). INS employees were absorbed into the above agencies with their organizations.

Given this background, it was reasonable to consider a new name – we just didn’t know whether keeping the legacy INS name was even an option. After all, what is the big difference between Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), word by word?

One positive aspect coming out of the name change, however, was that INS didn’t exactly stand for efficiency, transparency, effectiveness, reputation, or anything like that. So giving up the name may indeed be better for rebuilding the image of a much criticized government agency.



Good thing is that search engines are so smart nowadays that if you type INS, INS immigration, INS forms, etc, they know you are looking for USCIS stuff. So hopefully in another six years, people interested in U.S. immigration will finally realize that INS is long gone, and it is now USCIS’ time.

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