Legislation

The U.S. Constitution vests all federal legislative power in the U.S. Congress. Congress exercises this power by enacting public and private laws. A U.S. public law is a federal law that has general applicability nationwide. When Congress enacts a public law, it generally does not rewrite the entire body of law, or even entire sections of a law, but instead adds to or changes specific words within a section. These changes are then reflected in the larger body of public laws. This larger body of law is codified (or, essentially, collected and organized) by subject matter in the U.S. Code.

In some cases, public laws provide authorities not captured in the U.S. Code. Therefore, you may still need to reference certain public laws directly, as opposed to the U.S. Code (abbreviated as U.S.C.).

For more information on public laws, see the Government Publishing Office’s webpage on Public and Private Laws.

Legislation Affecting Immigration and Nationality

A public law known as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) collected many existing provisions and reorganized the structure of immigration law. Since then, Congress has amended the INA many times based on new public laws.

When Congress enacts public laws affecting immigration and nationality, a couple of things may happen with the INA. In some cases, Congress amends INA sections or adds new sections to the INA. In other cases, Congress passes immigration laws that do not change the INA.

You’ll find the INA and most other immigration laws in the part of the U.S. Code called Title 8. Immigration law provisions appear in Title 8 as either U.S. Code sections or notes to sections. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives is responsible for preparing the U.S. Code.

Legislation Affecting Agency Operations

Congress has enacted a number of laws governing how executive agencies may regulate private behavior, track personal information, and otherwise conduct business. The following are some of these laws that apply to USCIS as an executive agency:

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