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Immigration Law: Immigration Regulations


Some regulations have the force of law. This means that both the agency and regulated parties are bound by the rule. A legally binding rule is determinative on the issue. Other rules do not have the force of law and instead are advisory or provide guidance. Rules with the force of law must be developed according to certain procedures, while nonbinding rules are exempt from many procedural requirements. Nonbinding rules are are also called agency guidance, and are discussed under the agency guidance tab of this guide. 

The Department of Homeland Security is the main federal agency that promulgates federal regulations dealing with immigration. The DHS regulatory agenda includes regulations issued by DHS components, including the following six operational components with regulatory responsibilities:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

The US Department of State regulates visas.

These regulations are published first in the Federal Register, and then codified in the Code of Federal Register (C.F.R.). The regulations go into more detail than the statute. They have the force of law, but cannot conflict with the US Code, Executive Orders or the US Constitution.

Administrative Procedures Act


The Federal Register (FR)


The Federal Register (FR) is a chronological publication, analogous to US Statutes at Large.
It is published daily (except weekends and official federal holidays) by US Office of the Federal Register; first issue March 14, 1936.

Available from:

(a)  GPO Govinfo 1936 - to the present
(b)  Federal Register 2.0 - Organized for the public, ability to comment, plain language summaries. From the National Records and Archives Administration.


Materials required (by statute) to be published in Federal Register:
1.  Presidential documents – Proclamations, Executive Orders, etc.
2.  Rules and Regulations
3.  Proposed Rules – text, regulatory agendas, and hearings notices
4.  Notices – Sunshine Act meetings, etc.

Finding Aids (e.g., Table of Contents, List of CFR Parts Affected) included in each FR issue.
Monthly index; each index issue cumulates earlier index issues of that year. December issue serves as final annual index.



Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The CFR is an official compilation of codified regulations.

It is arranged by subject, analogous to US Code.  However, CFR Title numbers do not always match USC Title numbers. [e.g., 26 USC – Internal Revenue Code and 26 CFR – tax regulations; but 20 USC – Education and 34 CFR – education regulations.]

The first edition published in 1939 (for regulations in effect as of 6/1/38). Paperbound volumes published annually (since 1967). US Office of the Federal Register revises CFR on quarterly basis – January 1st – Titles 1-16; July 1st – Titles 28-41; April 1st – Titles 17-27 October 1st – Titles 42-50.

Available from:


Division of CFR's Fifty Titles:

  • Titles divided into Chapters – Chapters designated to Agencies; numbered with roman numerals; Chapters sometimes have Subchapters, designated by capital letters.
  • (b)  Chapters divided into Parts.
  • (c)  Parts divided into Sections; Parts sometimes have Subparts.

         CFR sections are often inter-related.  Even if one has a cite to a particular Section, one may want to review the rest of the Sections in that Part.

Each CFR Part has:

  • (a)  Authority Note – generally, at “beginning” of each Part (i.e., at end of Part’s table of contents, before actual text begins); statutory/executive enabling authority under which regulations issued.
  • (b)  Source Notes – at end of each Section in Part; citation and date of Federal Register in which Section last published in full.

CFR Index and Finding Aids published annually. Not comprehensive, and usually refers to Parts, not Sections within Parts.  Includes Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules.