INS Long Gone: Search Under Correct Name

Apparently, many people still use the term INS (for Immigration and Naturalization Service) when referring to the governmental entity responsible for immigration enforcement and benefits. As many of our readers are aware, the INS ceased to exist on March 1, 2003. The term is simply etched into the minds of many, and the mistake is commonplace. This generally is not a problem, except when searching for information on the Internet, where the correct term USCIS should be used.

INS Searches Common due to Simplicity

The official blog of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Beacon, has noted that tens of thousands each month still search for immigration information by entering INS into their search engines. So, one who uses outdated terminology is certainly not alone. The Beacon asked individuals to comment as to why the old terminology is still so commonly used. Many focused on the simplicity of the term INS over USCIS.

Background: INS Change to DHS

The transition of immigration functions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was significant within immigration practice. MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers at the time were provided with detailed information during the historic change. [See DHS Watch: Latest Events in the Transition (07.Feb.2003) and DHS Watch: Paper Transition of Agencies Complete (07.Mar.2003).

As can be seen from the 2003 articles cited, there were some initial concerns regarding what the new immigration divisions of DHS would be called. The term bureau was used in each of the names of the three divisions within DHS that have immigration-related responsibilities. These were changed over time to the current designations. The tenacity of the term INS may have been strengthened by the lack of clarity in these name changes from the beginning.

Other U.S. Departments Involved in U.S. Immigration

It is important to use correct terms in order to have access to the most up-to-date and complete information when searching the Internet. The preferred government terminology for what was once the INS is “Legacy INS.”

Immigration functions in the United States span several departments of the U.S. government. In addition to the DHS, are the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which play key immigration-related roles.

Three Major Agencies Within DHS Dealing with Immigration

Within the DHS, there are three subdivisions performing the functions that were under what now is referred to as Legacy INS. These subdivisions are the USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The various immigration functions of the U.S. government was explained, and URLs provided, in our news article, Immigration Basics-Government Agencies Involved with U.S. Immigration (10.Dec.2010).


We realize that the manner in which immigration functions are divided in the United States can be quite confusing. Those searching for immigration information can often find what they need on MurthyDotCom, but searching under incorrect or outdated terms limits one’s results. At the very least, it is important to remember that the INS no longer exists, and the proper names and contact information for Legacy INS functions are available on MurthyDotCom.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.