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U.S. Immigration Law Research Guide: Structure of U.S. Immigration Law

This research guide provides an overview of pertinent resources for the Immigrant Advocacy Concentration at Loyola Law School and immigration law practice generally.

Overview and History

The federal government of the United States has broad authority to regulate immigration matters in the United States and exercises plenary power in the area. However, depending on the area of immigration law you are interested in, you may need to consult publications from a number of different federal departments and agencies to find relevant authority.

Prior to 2002, immigration was primarily governed by Immigration & Naturalization Services (INS). Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, many immigration services were transfered to the newly-created Department of Homeland Security (DHS), effective March 1, 2003.

Major Agencies in Immigration Law

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Department of Homeland Security

Department of Justice's Executive Office of Immigration Review

EOIR includes the following subdivisions:

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor helps to implement certain labor-related immigration laws and regulations under the INA through its:

To hire foreign workers, U.S. employers must demonstrate that "there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified and available" to fulfill the position and the employment of a foreign worker "will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed." The application by which an employer demonstrates of these attributes is commonly referred to as a labor certification, though there are many different types of certification for specific visas.

The Department of Labor's Office of Foreign Labor Certification site provides an overview of the labor certification process in addition to directives, advisories, regulations, and specific programs:

If an employer's labor certification application is not successful, the employer can appeal the decision through the:

Department of State

The State Department has two roles in implementation of immigration policy within the United States.  

First, the State Department issues both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to individuals applying from abroad through the:

Second, the State Department aids refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people throughout the world through the: