Immigration Law Sources and Helpful Links

US Immigration Law: Statutes & Regulations

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), at Title 8 of the United States Code (USC), is the foundation of US immigration law. But the INA’s put into play, so to speak, by a corresponding Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which covers “Aliens and Nationality.” One can find links to these bodies of law at numerous government sites, but there’s really no reason to stray from the USCIS site in your efforts at legal research.


At the CIS site (at “Laws,” the tab furthest to the right) you can find not only the INA, the CFR and other related immigration law regs, but also: Administrative Decisions (on appeals from CIS adjudications), Precedent Decisions (of the Attorney General, the AAO and BIA, designated as “Precedent” by the Secretary of DHS), Memoranda (which provide a sort of peek behind the curtain of bureaucracy), and also cost-free “Handbooks, Manuals and Guidance.”

Federal courts, up to the US Supreme Court, also have a role (actually, the final role) in the interpretation and implementation of US immigration law, but we suspect you haven’t come here to do your comparatively metalegal research.

US Immigration Law: The Departments & Agencies

The Immigration and Naturalization Service hasn’t existed for over a decade, but we still hear talk of the INS. Stop that!

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002, and placed beneath it were the following agencies charged with the administration and the enforcement of US immigration law: USCIS, CPB, and ICE.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services carries out the administration of US immigration law. At their website (which is actually quite nicely done — Go Government!) you will find pretty much any information and instruction needed to undertake an immigration-related effort. The qualification “pretty much” means: You will not find at the USCIS site legal advice. You will not find, in other words, answers to the complex cases, the unexpected developments.

This is where you’ll want to go to find needed forms. And, like the site says, They’re Free! You should never have to pay anyone for them.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection work the borders. Here’s how they describe themselves, their mission: “one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing the border and facilitating lawful international trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations, including immigration and drug laws.”


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” They are charged with, among other things, enforcing the nation’s immigration laws. Whereas you’re most likely to run into a CPB agent at a port of entry, you’re most likely to run into an ICE agent if you’re removable.

Department of Justice

The US Department of Justice, headed by the Attorney General, is the “the central agency for enforcement of federal laws,” and the prosecutorial arm of the US government. Beneath it the following agencies work at the administration of the law, the interpretation of the law, and the functioning of the courts: EOIR, BIA, OCH, and OCAHO.


The Executive Office for Immigration Review is the Attorney General’s delegate charged with administering and interpreting US immigration law and regulations. It does this through the immigration courts, in which the subdivisions BIA, OCH, and OCAHO all play a part.


The Board of Immigration Appeals, as one might suspect, hears appeals from decisions made in individual cases by immigration judges, DHS, and other immigration officials.


The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge presides over all the immigration courts, minds their functioning and proceedings.


The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer has jurisdiction over three types of immigration-related cases: the unauthorized employment of unlawful aliens (employer sanctions); unfair employment practices; and document fraud.

And also under the Department of Justice are the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), which enforces anti-discrimination provisions of the INA, and the Office of Immigration Litigation, (OIL) which handles all civil immigration litigation.


The Department of State

The State Department is the diplomatic wing of the US government, its agents responsible for the manning and administration of US consulates the world over. At these posts they play an important role in the functioning of US immigration law, for they handle all manner of visa requests, adjudicating prospective visitors and immigrants alike. The DOS site is every bit as informative and instructive as the CIS site, and one can find there all the forms needed to effect consular processing. The following DOS-related links are also of particular interest.

Directory of US Consulates, Embassies, Missions

Just as described.

Visa Information Center

An “official United States visa information source,” one can find here much (if not all) of the same information that can be got at the CIS site, but largely in reverse (as the visa process, outside the Visitor categories, usually begins at CIS).

Visa Bulletin

As the State Department says: “The Visa Bulletin provides information regarding the cut-off dates which govern visa availability in the numerically limited visa categories and another immigrant visa related information.” Would-be immigrants in line awaiting visas will want to consult the current month’s bulletin. A .pdf available at the site, Operation of the Numerical Control Process, explains the numerical limits and how priority dates are determined.

US Immigration Law: Informative & Helpful Sites

USCIS Civil Surgeon Locator

OK, this is another link the CIS site, but it deserves its own place. Anyone who hopes to immigrate to the US will have to pass a physical given by an approved civil surgeon. Those who Adjust here in the States will have to find one locally. This Locator will help.


I had to click on their “About” tab to find out what angle this company works. Turns out that “ILW has two divisions: law publishing and boutique marketing services.” Right. Anyhow, they put out, among other things, The Immigration Daily. And, really, there’s loads of info on their site, and popular things like a discussion board and a twitter feed.

Immigration Equality

A one of a kind (as far as I know) site in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants.

Guru Immigration Law Blog

Put on by a law firm out of LA, its a good source for valuable information on and current developments in US immigration law— Oh, and also the Guru’s “meditations and musings.”


Some of the good guys. “Founded in 1979 by Bill Ong Hing, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national, non-profit resource center that provides legal training, educational materials, and advocacy to advance immigrant rights. The mission of the ILRC is to work with and educate immigrants, community organizations, and the legal sector to continue to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people.”


One of the worst words on the planet, “crimmigration” denotes the intersection of (you guessed it) criminal law and immigration law. This site should be of interest to anyone who has ever been arrested, whether subsequently convicted or not. The criminal grounds of exclusion are legion, the waivers few.