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Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

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What is the Immigration and Nationality Act?

The Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act, was created in 1952 and became law in 1965. It was the first law that committed the United States to accept immigrants of all nationalities on a roughly equal basis.

Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, it repealed national origin quotas that were set in place in the 1920s. The national origin quotas set aside the majority of immigration visas for primarily European immigrants.

National-origin visas were meant to limit immigrants from Asian, African, Middle East, and Southern and Eastern European countries while favoring Western and Northern European countries. The Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted on the heels of other civil rights legislations in the 1960s.

What are Immigration Visas?

Immigration visas allows immigrants to enter the United States for a specific period of time and for a specific purpose. When you obtain a visa, you are a temporary resident of the United States, but permanent residency still lies outside the United States.

It is not to be confused with a green card, which permits the person to become a permanent residence of the United States.

What is Immigration Law?

Immigration law is the complex body of law that refers to the rules that are established by the federal government. They dictate who is allowed to enter the country and for how long. Each nation has its own immigration laws.

How Does the Immigration and Nationality Act Impact Immigration Law?

From a practical standpoint, the Act ensured that more immigrants from other countries were allowed to come to the United states. By way of example, seven out of every eight immigrants in 1960 were from Europe. By 2010, nine out of ten were coming from other parts of the world.

How is the Immigration and Nationality Act Codified?

The Act is divided into titles, chapters, and sections, but it is a stand-alone law. It is codified in the United States Code (U.S.C.). The U.S.C. is a collection of laws of the United States.

What does the Act Cover?

The INA covers nearly every conceivable issue related to or involving the immigration of aliens to the U.S.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more commonly cited Sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

  • §203 Preference System (skilled immigrants, relatives of U.S. citizens, quotas, etc.)
  • §208 Asylum
  • §212 Admissibility
  • §222 Visa Applications
  • §234 Ports of Entry
  • §241 Detention and Removal
  • §245 Adjustment of Status
  • §274C Penalties for Document Fraud
  • §281 Nonimmigrant Visa Fees
  • §311 Eligibility for Naturalization
  • §412 Refugee Assistance

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with My Immigration Law Issue?

Any time an immigrant or alien encounters an immigration law issue, it usually involves one or more of the sections in Immigration and Nationality Act. If you or a loved one of yours has any immigration issues, it’s in your best interests to hire an immigration lawyer for advice. 

A qualified attorney in your area can help explain your options and rights under the Act and other immigration laws.  They can also represent you in immigration court if you’ve been requested to appear for a hearing.

Photo of page author Erin Chan Adams

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 02-22-2018 11:12 AM PST

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