INS disappears at midnight tomorrow

This is not at all mundane or pointless, but I didn’t know where else to put it…

Tomorrow night will usher in the dawn of a new era: on March 1, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, along with numerous other government agencies, will be absorbed into the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

I’m trying to remain optimistic about what this will mean for the efficiency and sensibility of the immigration bureaucracy in the U.S., but it’s difficult. The sheer size of the merger/transfer is unprecedented; it will involve 22 Federal agencies and 170,000 employees. It sure doesn’t bode well that the new agency has already missed its first deadline (the merger of some 80 payroll systems). Nor does it bode well for law-abiding users of the immigration system (i.e. the vast majority) that most of those who have been named to management positions in the newly created agency have backgrounds in law enforcement and/or prosecution rather than in pure management of the provision of services.

For the moment we’ve been told that logistical issues will remain as they are now (office and mailing addresses will stay the same for now, as will most personnel; the new agency will continue to accept mail and checks addressed to INS for an indefinite period). However, many important issues still remain to be ironed out. Nearly half of current Customs and Inspections personnel will be eligible for retirement within the next five years. Tom Ridge has stated that he wants to combine the INS, Customs, and Agriculture inspections functions, so that in theory any person, suitcase, or freight container arriving at the border would be examined by a single person; given that at least on the immigration side of things, my office frequently has problems with inspections personnel not having a thorough knowledge of the immigration regulations they are responsible for enforcing now, I don’t see how the same personnel can reasonably be expected to retain triple the information.

In addition, there is an inherent conflict in my mind between the new agency’s antiterrorism and customer service missions. What will happen, for example, when someone shows up at an airport with no identity documents or obviously fake ones, and requests asylum? Will the enforcement mentality prevail, or will the U.S.’ adherence to international treaties on the treatment of refugees? Will we start to detain all asylum-seekers during the entire adjudication process? The new agency is supposed to be divided into a Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and a Border and Transportation Security Directorate, but so far it looks like they will share a single Office of Legal Counsel. So who will moderate disputes between the two sides of the agency’s mission? Since DHS will take over visa issuance at consulates overseas, what incentive will they have to be reasonable in issuing visas, if there is no recourse when they’re unreasonable?

Methinks my job will shortly become even more chaotic than it already is at times, and heck, I’m not even on the receiving end of most of the worst of it. The task of revamping existing legislation, regulations, forms, bureaucratic substructures, etc. will be mammoth, and will probably take at least several years and multiple lawsuits; for one thing, some employees of the various component agencies to be subsumed under DHS were unionized, but others weren’t, so there’s a lot of confusion about lines of authority, terms of employment, etc.

I just hope you non-U.S. Dopers don’t get caught in the middle of the dislocation. If you do, though, please post your issue, and I’ll try my best to address it.

Your thoughts/predictions? You can find INS information (for now, anyway) at, and DHS’ web site is finally up and running at (although many links just refer you back to the INS Web site).

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal

Like I wasn’t worried enough already about the I-129F that’s sitting on a pile of mail somewhere at an INS center in Nebraska…

Or the I-751 probably sitting right underneath the I-129F…

They promised this wouldn’t affect us.


Just when things were starting to pick up a little at the blackhole known as the NSC…


My wife received a letter from INS congratulating her on receiving permanent residence last April and was to receive her card within two weeks. But that never happened.

Calls and letters to Lincoln NE go unanswered. I have received about a million busy signals and no calls ever go through.

I call the Chicago INS office and they say only Lincoln can help me. I called a number in Washington DC from the website and was told a one year wait or longer now is not uncommon.

Our paralegal advises for her to pursue citizenship. Is this the best available advice?

What if my wife wants to travel outside the US and return to the US without a permanent resident card?

What is the best thing we can do right now?

**Lorenzo, ** does your wife have a valid I-551 stamp in her passport? If so, she can travel internationally with that. And yes, it can take a year or more for the card to show up. If her stamp is expired, or about to expire, she can go to the local INS office and get it renewed.

Also, if you’ve moved since her permanent residence was granted, green cards are NOT forwarded in the mail; they are returned to INS and destroyed. If that’s the case, you’ll have to file an I-90 and wait some more.

I’m willing to bet that alot of the employees of the new Homeland Security department will be looking for new jobs within a year. The reason for this is that President Bush wanted to scrap existing civil service protections and this was the best compromise he could wrangle out of Congress. I know if I was employed there, I’d be looking for another job. No telling what those employees will be faced with.

Who came up with the name “Department of Homeland Security”?

Forgive me , but that name sounds so naziish. They may as well have called it “Department of Fatherland Security”

I think “Department of National Security” would have sounded much better.

And ‘DHS’ sounds too much like ‘DHSS’ - the Uk department for unemployment benefit and such (Department of Health and Social Security)

I hear you!

Me and Astrogirl filed our I-129F about 8 months ago… she’s still in Korea.

The latest was a letter I got last week informing me that I, get this, HADN’T ESTABLISHED THAT I WAS A US CITIZEN!:smack:


Crossing my fingers and toes, and also knocking on wood… I want my Astrogirl, dammit!

You are so smart. Thank you. Her I-551 stamp is expired and we do need to renew it. Passport’s about expired, too. We’ll try to renew both in one day, I guess. That will be bloody hell, for sure. Dinner at Frontera Grill may soothe the nerves at the end of the day.

We did move in 8/2001 and I do believe her card may have been mailed to the old address, returned and destroyed. 'Round about maybe March or April 2002 something finally dawned upon us and I wrote a letter to INS in Lincoln NE advising of the change of address and they responded very quickly with the “Congratulations!” letter advising a 2 week wait for the card, but we never did file an I-90 and perhaps not coincidentally haven’t yet received the card.

Do you recommend us to file a form I-90 now and should our paralegal be able to assist us with this?

I just received my Notice of Action eight days ago, in which they mentioned a 150-180 day lag time. The only part that’s nagging at me is they wanted a photocopy front and back of my birth certificate. There’s nothing on the back of a MN birth certificate. I have a low-grade fear that it’ll be rejected on that basis.

Of course, watch them change the fee in a few months and then reject my application on the basis that I overpaid …

**Lorenzo, ** yep, file the I-90 now, as long as you don’t plan to move again for a while. In the meantime, though, get that stamp updated! Your paralegal can help you with the I-90, but to get the 551 stamp updated, your wife will have to go in person. I recommend being there first thing in the morning, because they hand out a certain number of tickets for the day (600 IIRC), and anyone after that isn’t even allowed in the building. Chicago INS is closed to the public on Fridays, and the lines are longest Mondays. (I know, because I walk past the Huddled Masses on the way to work every morning, which is about 3 blocks away.)

Good luck, and have a nice daiquiri at Frontera for me afterward! (Although I’m more fond of tapas at Cafe Iberico - the bizcocho borracho is to die for if you have a sweet tooth.)

I’ll try and keep everyone posted about my trials and tribulations in getting a visa (J-1 class, I believe). My paperwork should start being processed on Monday.

We sent our change of address information to the INS 4 motnhs before we moved. It’s been nearly a year, and they still haven’t acknowledged that we’ve moved. We sent the mail certified to ensure they got it, and it did get there because we got the signature card back and confirmed delivery, but now the INS bastards say we never sent it.

I hate them, and it’s probably just going to get worse after thier absorption by DHS.

This whole Office of Homeland Security stuff scares me. There are changes happening in the US that are going to have some major consequences.


I’m wondering if I’ll have any more problems getting into the US. I’m afraid not only will I have problems, but Kal as well because of his looks (be honest - it’s a very real possibility).

We need to go back sometime this year to scatter my father’s ashes and see family and such. With everything happening, and this new HS jobbie…

Also, Eva Luna, I am seriously considering giving up my US citizenship for UK citizenship. Do you forsee any problems from DHS with this?

  • I got my Green Card!

Our adjustment of status interview began on time (!), we’d been handed to a trainee because “our case was so straightforward”.

A major snag was the INS official pouncing on my German police record: “Is there no translation for this ?” - well, no, it was requested for the Consulate interview in Germany and they specifically stated that documents in German were completely allowable… “Well, I can’t read German.”

Getting a signed German-English translation within 3 hours was a little surreal, but we managed.

And the INS official must’ve graduated summa cum laude from the Academy of Passport-Stamping Officialdom - not only did he place the I-551 stamp two-thirds through my passport, but as a finishing flourish, he stamped it upside down.

Be that as it may, a couple of weeks later the letter (the first one with the header “Welcome to the United States”) arrived, and a couple of weeks after that, a Green Card arrives in the mail. (It’s not green, by the way. Actually, it’s pretty cool - all sorts of holographic & microengraved copy protection, ultrasmall pictures of all US presidents and the state flags, besides the photograph (showing my right ear) and fingerprint.)

Sometimes, it works.

Best advice: Be on the up-and-up about the rules - do not expect anything you get from the INS or a consulate to be complete, precise or up to date. And be sure that your photos show the right ear only!

Not the face, too? Crap. I’m screwed.


I got my first green card about 2 months after my AoS interview, but unfortunately, they misspelled my name.

After sending it back (free of charge! Woot!), I was given a new 551 stamp in my passport and told it would take about three months for my corrected card to get to me. That was around September 9, 2001.

Just before moving to WA, I asked the Baltimore INS Office if they had any idea what was going on with my new card. Due to recent events, they obviously had much more important things on their minds. But they still promised to check on it for me. At the same time, I filed my change of address, which changed my Service Centre from Vermont to Nebraska.

I have never received a Notice of Action in regards to that change of address, but did get one from Nebraska regarding my I-751, which was filed about 6 mos after I moved here, so I’m assuming I’m up to speed there.

At any rate (where am I going with this?), somebody wasn’t on the ball at the Vermont Service Centre (!), and my corrected green card was sent to my old apartment in DC. It was forwarded to my WA address. As well, my sister, who changed residences before getting her card, had it forwarded to her new place as well.

Anyhoo, I guess what I’m saying is that I would never depend on the INS or the mail to get things done correctly, and always make sure you follow up with your Service Centre. But if the INS does screw up, you might get lucky with the USPS.

Lorenzo, I had the same problems with phone calls to Vermont - nothing but busy signals. I ended up using a dual line phone, calling the number and if I got a busy signal, automatically switching to the second line and hitting “redial.” Still took me about an hour to get through, and then 2 hours on hold, but it can be done.

**Washte, ** is there some reason you want to give up your U.S. citizenship, rather than just acquire British citizenship as well? It can, indeed, generally be done; the U.S. isn’t crazy about dual citizenship because of the complications it causes, but they grudgingly allow it under most normal circumstances. Here’s a link to more detail:

Whether the Brits have issues with it, of course, is another story.

In fact, my college roomie is living in England and working on her 3rd passport: she was born Salvadoran, naturalized American, and is now living in England with her English husband and two ethnically confused kids, who are both eligible for all 3 passports at birth.

And to Aguecheek: would you believe our office has a person whose entire job consists of trying to call INS for case status updates? She spends a lot of time hitting the redial button…