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What Does the INS Do?

16th March 2011
By Paul Anderson in Immigration Law
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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the INS) is the government agency that takes care of the entire immigration process in the US.

If you are applying to legally stay in the US, certain immigration forms/petitions have to be filed either at the American Consulate in your home country or with the USCIS (formerly the INS) if you are in the US. These applications are available on the INS website. The help of attorneys and other private websites is sought regularly as the forms can be sophisticated at times. All immigration related applications filed in the US will be processed by the USCIS

The Application Process:

After you select the appropriate forms, you have to complete it and mail it to the designated USCIS (formerly the INS) office along with the fee and supporting documents. As a confirmation for having received your application, the USCIS will send an Application Receipt Notice within thirty days that will have a 13-character Application Receipt number. This number normally starts with EAC, WAC, LIN, or SRC. You can have this notice as proof that you have applied. Furthermore, you can monitor the progress of your application with this number.

If you received this receipt number and wish to check the status of your case, you may visit and enter this number under the link “Case Status Online”. If you do not have a receipt number, you can find out how long USCIS takes to process such type of applications by clicking “Processing Times” that is listed on the USCIS “Case Status Online” page. But in this case, you can only know how long USCIS takes to process such applications and it may not be specific to your case. Application Processing times are categorized according to the type of application you filed and also related to the USCIS Application Service Center (ASC) where your application was filed. At times you will not receive any notification from the USCIS (formerly the INS) even after thirty days of having submitted your application. In such a case, you can contact them at their toll-free telephone line and talk to their customer service representatives who will guide you further.

Another facility related to checking status is also available for applicants and their representatives (such as lawyers, charitable groups, or corporations). Such persons who are in need of regular access to information about their multiple cases can create an account to get this information easily. The services provided by US Citizenship Immigration Service (formerly the INS) to both account types are similar except that applicants' representatives can enter their own internal office tracking number with each receipt number to deal with multiple cases.

Moreover, there is a new program that provides the option where you can receive a text message notification to your US mobile phone number whenever an update to a case status happens. Applicants and their representatives can avail this facility to receive such text message notification. However, note that Standard Messaging Rates or other charges related to these notifications may apply for such text messages. Applicants and their representatives can also receive automatic case status updates through e-mail as well. These options prove handy to applicants as the processing time for applications differ.
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