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Immigration Law Research Guide

Finding Federal Regulations

The general statutory provisions of laws enacted by Congress are interpreted and implemented by regulations issued by various federal agencies. Please refer to the Finding Federal Primary Law research guide for more information on locating federal regulations.


Code of Federal Regulations

Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations deals with Aliens and Nationality. 

8 CFR can be found in the following:

  • GovInfo (official electronic version)
  • USCIS website
  • Bender's Immigration Regulations Service (LexisPrint: Law Library)
  • Bloomberg LawHeinOnlineLexis, and Westlaw
  • Official print version of the C.F.R. (Print: Law Library)

For historical regulatory code research, use HeinOnline's Code of Federal Regulations library or FDsys.

Federal Register

Federal agencies first publish notices, proposed regulations, and final regulations in the Federal Register. The Federal Register can be found in the following locations:

  • GovInfo
  • Bloomberg LawHeinOnlineLexisWestlaw
  • Print: Law Library

Many federal agencies also post agency materials on their websites. See Federal Agencies within this research guide.

Executive Orders

Executive Orders are orders or rules issued by the President to the executive branch. Executive orders are printed in the Federal Register and eventually published in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). See above for research locations for both the Federal Register and the CFR.

Additionally, executive orders may be found in the following locations:

American Presidency Project

Federal Agencies

Many federal agencies deal with immigration. Below are a few of the relevant agencies responsible for administering and enforcing federal immigration laws.

Department of Homeland Security

After 9/11, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was eliminated and most immigration functions that had been delegated to it under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS has three primary sub-agencies that deal with immigration issues.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

  • USCIS is responsible for administering immigration benefits and services including petitions, naturalization applications, and asylum and refugee matters. The USCIS provides its policies and procedures in the Adjudicator's Field Manual.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

  • ICE is responsible for investigation and enforcement of immigration and customs laws including detention and removal.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

  • CBP enforces U.S. laws and regulations regarding protection of the nation's borders while also allowing legitimate trade and travel.

Department of State

The Department of State handles the issuance of visas through embassies and consulates. The Department of State also publishes the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, also known as Human Rights Reports, on its website. The agency's list of Foreign Affairs Handbooks is intended for use by U.S. consulates but can also be useful for those applying for entry from outside the United States.

Department of Justice

The Department of Justice oversees immigration court proceedings. Under the authority of the Attorney General, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) interprets and administers immigration law by conducting court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings. (See EOIR Organization Chart).

Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ)

  • The OCIJ manages the immigration courts and immigration judges, usually involving removal hearings. Notable agency publications include the OCIJ Practice Manual, a practice manual for attorneys, and the Immigration Judge Benchbook, a guide for immigration judges.

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

  • The BIA hears appeals of decisions made by immigration judges. The BIA also publishes the BIA Practice Manual, which provides guidance for attorneys appearing before the BIA.

Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO)

  • The OCAHO deals with immigration issues in employment cases such as the hiring of unauthorized employees, unfair employment practices related to immigrants, and document fraud pertaining to immigration.

Administrative Decisions

Many immigration agencies are statutorily mandated to hear and adjudicate alleged violations of the statutes and regulations they administer. Generally, there is an initial administrative hearing that may be appealed to an internal agency appeals board (e.g., the Board of Immigration Appeals). Continuing disputes may be appealed further to the United States Courts of Appeals (discussed under Cases within this research guide).

Decisions of Immigration Law Judges

  • Immigration law judges, overseen by the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, hear immigration cases primarily dealing with removal. Interpreter Releases provides summaries of decisions of immigration law judges. See Interpreter Releases on the Secondary Sources page within this research guide.

Board of Immigation Appeals (BIA)

  • BIA Precedent Decisions can be found on HeinOnlineLexisWestlaw, and the BIA's website.

Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) (formerly Administrative Appeals Unit (AAU))

  • The AAO hears appeals in a wide variety of immigration cases where benefits were denied. Most decisions are non-precedential decisions, meaning they are binding on the parties but do not alter agency guidance. AAO decisions can be found on LexisWestlaw, and the USCIS website.

Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA)

  • BALCA, part of the Department of Labor, hears appeals in labor certification cases, dealing with the certification of foreign workers for work in the United States. BALCA decisions can be found on Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline, and BALCA's website.

Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO)

  • OCAHO decisions can be found on HeinOnlineLexisWestlaw, and the OCAHO's website.
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