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Immigration and Nationality Act

What Is The Immigration and Nationality Act?

The Immigration and Nationality Act is a piece of legislation enacted in 1952 that serves to collect many disparate sections of immigration law into a single act. The Act has been added to, edited, and revised many times since its enactment but continues to serve as a cornerstone of immigration policy.

The Immigration and Nationality Act initially served to reorganize the bureaucratic structure of immigration law. As a part of U.S. Code Title 8, “Aliens and Nationality,” the act contains some of the most important provisions in all of immigration law. 

In its initial publication, the Immigration and Nationality Act was significant for its balance of progressive and regressive policies. While the act ended the practice of excluding Asian countries from the immigration process and set up a system of preferences centered on skill sets and family reunification, the act also continued to enforce the quota system that only allowed a number of new immigrants relative to their existing population in the U.S. This resulted in an immigration flow that was largely made up of Northern and Western Europeans since their numbers were already well represented in the U.S. by this time.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the old 1924 quota system was adjusted to allow a number of visas to be issued to members of each country equal to up to 0.17% of the U.S. population of that nationality. Exempted from these quotas were countries in the Western Hemisphere for whom the Act instead introduced new length of residency requirements.

Key Takeaways

  • The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 is a landmark piece of immigration legislation that collected most of the federal immigration laws into a single repository.
  • The Immigration and Nationality Act describes nearly every aspect of immigration law and procedure regarding the acquisition of visas, citizenship, and the various interactions between the U.S. government and noncitizens.
  • While the Act itself is massive, there are some very important details related to procedures like deportation including the right to counsel with the caveat that the government will not provide the attorney for the individual.
  • If you are seeking citizenship, temporary authorization, or visitation, an experienced Immigration Law attorney may be able to offer advice and advocacy in navigating the complexities of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Immigration and Nationality Act and Immigration Law

The amount of information and law contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act is staggering. Every provision from a foreign pilot temporarily landing to the jurisdiction of district courts in immigration proceedings is detailed somewhere in the encyclopedic contents of the act.

The act controls a number of broad categories of immigration. Like the Immigration Act of 1990, the Immigration and Nationality Act describes aspects of the worldwide level of immigration, the numerical limitation of visas on individual foreign nations, and the process of allocating immigrant visas. There is also a section devoted to the procedure of granting an individual the status of “immigrant” as well as the procedure for handling unused immigrant visas.

In addition to general provisions for immigration, there are also specifically enumerated sections that are devoted to controlling the annual admission of refugees and the admission of “emergency situation refugees,” the definition and process of asylum, and how to adjust the status of a refugee.

The Immigration and Nationality Act also contends with issues of security and non-administrative procedure as well. Contained in the Act are provisions controlling the admission of immigrants into the U.S., definitions of inadmissible aliens, the admission of nonimmigrant foreign individuals, and the designation of foreign terrorist organizations. These sections include details on how immigrants are to be detained in order to administer physical or mental examinations, how aliens should be apprehended and detained, and how to manage pre-inspection at airports.

Importantly for immigrants seeking to become citizens, the Immigration and Nationality Act describes conditional permanent resident status requirements for spouses, sons, daughters, and entrepreneurs. Additionally, the act has sections devoted to the issuance of and application for visas and re-entry permits.

Other important sections of the Act include sections detailing legal ports of entry, entry through foreign countries, and how an individual might be deported. Specifically, the Immigration and Nationality Act describes the qualifications of an aggravated felony as well as the initiation, execution, cancellation, and judicial review of deportation orders. This includes alternative options such as voluntary departure, penalties associated with removal and illegal reentry, achieving temporary protected status, and penalties for bringing immigrants into the nation unlawfully.

Finally, the Immigration and Nationality Act has a few provisions that actually protect immigrants. These sections describe unfair immigration-related employment practices, and the importation of immigrants for “immoral purposes.” These sections also touch on the process of removing an immigrant via immigration court: placing the burden of proof on the immigrant and asserting their right to an attorney but not at the expense of the government. 

Bottom Line

If you are an immigrant and are looking to take advantage of paths to citizenship, a nonimmigrant seeking a temporary visa, or a visitor who has been detained under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf in order to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your alternative options to deportation as well as present your case in the most compelling light possible and deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy as well as the obscure functions of immigration court.

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