United States: the role of the Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which can be translated into French by the Department of Homeland Security, is a department of the federal government of the United States of America. Established in 2002, following the introduction of the Homeland Security Act, DHS’s main goal is to ensure the country’s internal security. For this, he oversees a dozen government agencies each with specific missions.

The missions of the Department of Homeland Security

The main mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to protect the American nation from all forms of threats. To carry out this immense task, it relies on a total workforce of more than 240,000 employees, operating in a wide variety of sectors, such as border protection, aviation, cybersecurity, etc. This organization requires a phenomenal budget: in 2018, the total budget of the Department of Homeland Security amounted to just over 44 billion dollars.

The missions of the Department of Homeland Security are articulated around 5 main axes:

  • the prevention of terrorism and the strengthening of security;
  • securing borders;
  • enforcement of immigration rules;
  • protection of the virtual space;
  • prevention and protection against all types of disasters.

The organization of DHS

DHS now comprises 14 government offices:

  • US Customs and Border Protection (US Customs and Border Protection);
  • the Science and Technology Directorate (Directorate of Science and Technology);
  • the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
  • the Management Directorate;
  • the National Cyber ​​Security Division ( Office of Cybersecurity and Communications);
  • the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (Federal Training Centers for Law Enforcement );
  • the United States Coast Guard (US Coast Guard);
  • the Countering Weapons of the Mass Destruction Office;
  • the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (Bureau of Intelligence and Analysis);
  • the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (Citizenship and Immigration Services);
  • the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Immigration and Customs Service);
  • the United States Secret Service;
  • the Transportation Security Administration (United States Transportation Security Administration);
  • the Office of Operations Coordination.

For optimal functioning, DHS works closely with certain agencies of the intelligence community (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.).

American flag DHS
American flag DHS

Department of Homeland Security and ESTA

As part of its core mission of maintaining internal security, the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for monitoring all migratory flows in the United States. In this logic, the DHS is responsible for delivering ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).

What is ESTA?

ESTA is an electronic travel authorization for travel to the United States without a visa. It is only issued to citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) member countries staying for up to 90 days for a tourist, business or transit trip.

To ensure that foreign nationals applying for ESTA do not pose a threat to the country’s internal security or that they do not wish to immigrate, DHS has put in place the ESTA form .

The ESTA form

This online form is available on the official US government website or on certain private platforms.

To complete it, it is first required to provide the identity information of the traveler on the ePassport or biometric passport. It will then be necessary to inform some information about the stay in the United States. Finally, the form concludes with a questionnaire. These questions are essential for the Department of Homeland Security , as they directly identify the nationals posing a threat. For example, it is asked if the traveler has ever had any legal convictions or if he has ever traveled to one of the states of Muslim Ban (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen). If the ESTA applicant answers “yes” to at least one of the 9 questions, the Department of Homeland Security will immediately reject their online application.

The Department of Homeland Security is also responsible for issuing, via the USCIS, the famous green card, which is none other than the permanent resident card.