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Immigration and Naturalization Service (U.S.)

Last modified: 2019-08-02 by rick wyatt
Keywords: departmental | immigration and naturalization | united states |
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[INS flag] image located by Esteban Rivera, 11 February 2019

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At are several partial pictures of what appears to be the Immigration and Naturalization Service flag or pennant, all in B&W. Putting together the bits and pieces, it looks like a B-W-B horizontal triband with the letters U.S., then the seal, then I.N.S. in block letters on the white stripe. From one picture, it appears that the letters read correctly on both sides of the flag. You can't tell whether the flag is a tapered, swallow-tailed pennant or not from these pictures.
Joe McMillan, 21 November 2001

A drawing captioned "Flag of INS to 1 Mar 2003" appears on the 'World Statesmen' site:

eBay offer no. 200262376188 (ended 17 Oct 2008) concerned this flag.
Comments: "Roughly 40" x 65" INCHES (…) Acquired in late 70s. Made by Colonial Nyl-Glo - 100% Nylon - exlusive of ornamentation - fast colors. Highest quality flag. Has tabs inside sleeve. Gold (I would say yellow, jm) fringed. All sewn construction. Lettering and emblem sewn on front and back. Except for the sewn-on blue circle in the center emblem, the Department of Justice is all embroidered. Dept of Justice emblem read correctly on front and back. USI&NS letters are sewn on front and back but read correctly on front only. Excellent condition."

I should add that the flag is horizontally divided BWB and has red initials "U.S. (Dept of Justice seal) I. & N.S.' in the central stripe.

Link to large picture of (current) seal: and explanation:
Jan Mertens, 3 November 2008

"The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor from 1933 to 1940 and the U.S. Department of Justice from 1940 to 2003. Prior to 1933, there were separate offices administering immigration and naturalization matters, known as the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization, respectively. The INS was established by Executive Order 6166 of June 10, 1933, merging these previously separate areas of administration.

Before that, the US encouraged relatively free and open immigration during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and did not question that policy until the late 1900s. After certain states passed immigration laws following the Civil War, the Supreme Court in 1875 declared that regulation of immigration is a Federal responsibility. Thus, as the number of immigrants rose in the 1880s and economic conditions in some areas worsened, Congress began to issue immigration legislation. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Alien Contract Labor laws of 1885 and 1887 prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States. The more general Immigration Act of 1882 levied a head tax of fifty cents on each immigrant and blocked (or excluded) the entry of idiots, lunatics, convicts, and persons likely to become a public charge. These national immigration laws created the need for a Federal enforcement agency. under the 1891 law, the Federal Government assumed the task of inspecting, admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the United States. The Immigration Service's first task was to collect arrival manifests (passenger lists) from each incoming ship, a responsibility of the Customs Service since 1820. Operations began in New York Harbor at a new Federal immigration station on Ellis Island (located in both New Jersey State and New York City, which opened on January 2, 1892.

Congress continued to exert Federal control over immigration with the Act of March 2, 1895, which upgraded the Office of Immigration to the Bureau of Immigration. Later, an Act of February 14, 1903, transferred the Bureau of Immigration from the Treasury Department to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. Then the Basic Naturalization Act of 1906, which framed the rules for naturalization in effect today was enacted. The 1906 law also proscribed standard naturalization forms, encouraged State and local courts to relinquish their naturalization jurisdiction to Federal courts, and expanded the Bureau of Immigration into the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.

When the Department of Commerce and Labor divided into separate cabinet departments in 1913 (Commerce and Labor), the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization divided into the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization. The two bureaus existed separately within the Department of Labor until 1933 when they were merged to create the INS.

Referred to by some as former INS and by others as legacy INS, the agency ceased to exist under that name on March 1, 2003, when most of its functions were transferred to three new entities Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS, which later changed its name to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within the newly created Department of Homeland Security, by the Homeland Security Act of November 25, 2002 as part of a major government reorganization following the September 11 attacks of 2001 by al-Qaeda."
Sources: Excerpts of the above were originally published in "A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government", edited by George T. Kurian, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998,,

Flag based on, source:

Also, here's another (more recent) picture of the flag (first from left to right) in much better resolution: (source:

For additional information go to INS (official website): 
Esteban Rivera, 11 February 2019


[INS pennant] image by Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

I found a Department of Justice solicitation for the purchase of INS pennants with a complete description:

Large pennants - Burgee shaped, 48 inches on the staff, 102 inches fly, 26 inches at the fly end, with a 25 inch swallowtail, the inside of the cut to be "well-rounded rather than sharp or V-shaped." The field white with the official seal of the INS, 11 1/4 inches in diameter. To the left, U.S. in red block letters, each 11 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches punctuated by square periods 2 inches square. To the right, I.& N.S. in red block letters, the I 11 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches, the N and S and the punctuation as for the U.S., the ampersand 5 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches, with the tails extending up to an inch to the right. Along each upper and lower edge, a blue stripe 6 1/4 inches wide.

With the exception of the inscription, I&NS instead of just IS and the substitution of the INS seal for that of the Department of Labor, this basic pennant design has been in use since the early 20th century. It appears in [gsh34] and [u9s38] that I know of, as well as other sources. I have seen mentions of its flying over immigration posts at various locations and was formerly flown in launches carrying immigration inspectors out to ships, although I don't believe this happens any longer. The Border Patrol is part of the INS, and operates patrol boats, but has its own flag and pennant, which I posted some time back.
Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

See the incredibly detailed government procurement specs:
Jan Mertens, 3 November 2008