U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act

Contents   Sections   Search

This document allows you to access the complete text of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act, Title 8 of the U.S. Code (8 USC) in a variety of ways. Hyperlinks have been embedded in the Code to permit following cross-references between sections with a simple mouse click. A WAIS-based full-text search engine allows you to quickly locate Code sections by content.

Access and navigation

You can access the Code through its own hierarchical table of contents, a comprehensive (flat) table of contents, or an index by section number, handy when you're looking up a citation in another document.

Each section of the Code contains navigation buttons which provide immediate access to the next and previous section, the table of contents, the section index, the text search request form, and this document. Below the title at the top of a section is its complete citation in the Code, for example:


Each component in these citations is hyperlinked to the hierarchical table of contents entry for that component of the Code, within which each item is linked to the document that contains it. This allows you to easily move up and down the hierarchy.

Full-text searching

The complete Immigration and Nationality Act is more than 3.5 megabytes in length and contains more than half a million words; printed 60 lines to the page, it would fill more than a thousand letter-size pages. By harnessing the freeWAIS-sf indexing and retrieval engine to the Web version of the Code, you can search the entire Code for words or combinations of words, navigating directly to sections that matched the query by following a link. For example, entering "deportation and appeal" in the query box and pressing Start search locates all 17 sections of the Code containing both of those words, ranked in descending order of relevance as determined by the weighting algorithm in freeWAIS-sf. You can compose more complex queries using the standard freeWAIS-sf query syntax.

Weasel words

The source document for this Web server was obtained from the U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Law Revision Counsel, and is current up to January 19th, 2004.

English text isn't a programming language. Compiling it automatically into hypertext is not an error-free process. The HTML version of the Code is, as far as I know, complete and correct, containing every word in the original ASCII document. However, the process of linking cross-references, which provides much of the added value compared to a printed edition of the Code, requires a large number of heuristics (or as they used be called, kludges) which attempt to parse the text of the statute sections of the Code and identify both the hierarchy of the text and references within it.

The Statute parts of the Code (the actual law) are compiled into HTML which attempts to express the hierarchy in the text by indentation. All the other parts, such as amendment histories, transitional rules, references in text, etc. are written to an auxiliary document pointed to by title links in the main statute document. All the auxiliary parts are written as "preformatted text", precisely as they appeared in the original ASCII document.

I make absolutely no representations or warranties regarding this document and I accept no responsibility whatsoever for any consequences of your use of it. I've tried to be careful in converting a huge mass of unindexed ASCII text into a live document that's genuinely useful for research, but I'm a fallible human who insists that other members of his species assume total responsibility for their own actions.

And finally, as you use this document, please keep in mind that in the Anglo-Saxon legal system, the law is not so much what is written down, but what the courts have decided in cases. People, particularly folks with a background in engineering or science, often assume the law can be interpreted and manipulated like a set of axioms. It doesn't work that way. So while there is a great deal one can learn from a document such as the Immigration and Nationality Act, it's no substitute for expert professional advice when you're making decisions that affect your own fragile body. Conversely, when dealing with experts, having access to the codified law is a good way to find out just how expert they really are, and how accurate the advice you're getting actually is.

Development details

The complete U.S. Internal Revenue Code is also available in this format. Visit my home page for other documents and software, some relevant to business, economics, and politics.

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by John Walker