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Immigration Law Research

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)​, Federal Statutory Law

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)​

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)​ was enacted in 1952. Although frequently amended, the Act still forms the basic structure of immigration law in the United States. Prior to enactment of the INA, immigration law was governed by a variety of statutes but they were not consolidated in one location. Also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, the INA collected and codified many existing provisions and reorganized the structure of immigration law.

Federal Statutory Law

Statutes currently in force regarding immigration in the United States are found in the following titles of the United States Code (U.S.C.):

  • Title 8Aliens and Nationality - Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 
  • Title 6Domestic Security - established the Department of Homeland Security structure and responsibilities
  • Title 18Crimes and Criminal Procedure - immigration-related crimes (Chapter 69 - Nationality & Citizenship;Chapter 75 - Passports & Visas)
  • Title 22Foreign Relations - consular affairs and overseas visa operations
  • Title 29. Labor - standards related to immigrant employment
  • Title 42The Public Health and Welfare - provisions related to immigrant medical examinations and federal benefits/assistance programs

The United States Code is available online and in print from several sources including:

The following publications update federal immigration statutes:

Legislative History Sources

Legislative History Compilations:

Federal Regulations

Federal Regulations

Administrative regulations that implement immigration statutes passed by Congress can be found in the following titles of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R):

  • Title 8. Aliens and Nationality.  Main source for U.S. immigration regulations. It covers U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (detention and removal), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (admission and port of entry policies), the Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) operations.  
  • Title 6. Domestic Security.  General operations of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Title 20. Employees’ Benefits. Temporary employment of foreign nationals, prevailing wage requirements, and applications for labor certification. (20 C.F.R. §§ 655 & 656)
  • Title 22. Foreign Relations.  (visa issuance: 22 C.F.R. pt. 40-42; exit controls: 22 C.F.R. pt. 46; nationality & passports: 22 C.F.R. pts. 50-53; and nonimmigrant exchange visitor programs: 22 C.F.R. pts. 62-65)
  • Title 28. Judicial Administration.  (Organization of Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and legacy INS: 28 C.F.R. pt. 0: unfair immigration employment practices: 28 C.F.R. pt. 44; practice and procedure for administrative hearings: 28 C.F.R. pt. 68) 
  • Title 29. Labor.  (rules of practice and procedure for administrative hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges: 29 C.F.R. pt. 18; seasonal and temporary workers: 29 C.F.R. pts. 500 & 501)
  • Title 42. Public Health (alien medical examinations: 42 C.F.R. pt 34).

    The sources below provide access to immigration regulations:

U.S. Government Agencies that Administer the Immigration System

Two totally separate agencies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice are responsible for managing the majority of functions within the U.S. immigration system. Some other responsibilities of the U.S. immigration system fall under the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A brief description of these agencies and their immigration responsibilities are listed below:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Administrative Decisions: Board of Immigration Appeals; Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA); Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO)

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Decisions

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) under the Department of Justice.  Immigration Court decisions are not reported but summaries are available in Interpreter Releases (listed further below). These decisions may be appealed to the BIA. Some types of USCIS petitions may also be appealed directly to the BIA. Precedential decisions (including decisions which have been certified by the U.S. Attorney General) are available on the EOIR’s Virtual Law Library. Some non-precedential cases are listed on the website as indexed cases, though the BIA discourages citation to non-precedential cases. Precedential cases are available in the sources listed below. 

Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) Decisions

Decisions on Applications for Labor Certification may be appealed to the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA). BALCA was organized in May 1987. Pursuant to 20 CFR § 656.26, the Board is empowered to review all denials of applications for labor certification for which review was requested on or after May 7, 1987. Previously, appeals were adjudicated by individual administrative law judges within the Department of Labor.  The Board is chaired by the Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the Department of Labor and consists of other Department ALJs designated by the Chief Judge. BALCA decisions are published by the Office of Administrative Law Judges and available in sources listed below. 

Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) Decisions

The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) is part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) under the Department of Justice. The OCAHO has jurisdiction over three types of cases arising under the Immigration and Nationality Act as amended (INA), including those involving allegations of: (1) knowingly hiring, recruiting or referring for a fee unauthorized aliens, or the continued employment of unauthorized aliens, failure to comply with employment verification requirements, and requiring indemnity bonds from employees in violation of section 274A of the INA (employer sanctions); (2) immigration-related unfair employment practices in violation of section 274B of the INA; and (3) immigration-related document fraud in violation of section 274C of the INA. OCAHO is headed by a Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (CAHO) who provides overall program direction, articulates policies and procedures, establishes priorities, administers the hearing process presided over by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and reviews the employer sanctions decisions of the ALJs. The ALJs hold hearings and related administrative proceedings and render decisions on cases assigned to them concerning the three areas listed above. OCAHO decisions are available in some of the sources listed below.


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