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Features - Immigration Law on the Web

By Beth Smith, Published on October 1, 1999

Beth Smith is a Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor at the Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law. She has a law degree and Masters of Law Librarianship from the University of Washington. She speaks at continuing legal education seminars several times a year on Web-related topics.


Introduction

Recently, I was asked to speak at a continuing legal education seminar on the topic of researching immigration law on the Web, so I had to quickly become an expert on the topic. The wealth of good information available on the Web never ceases to amaze me, no matter what topic I am researching. Of course, not every useful resource is available online. This article describes some of the most useful Web sites for immigration law practitioners; it is far from comprehensive.

FindLaw

Whenever you are doing any type of legal research on the Web, a good place to start is FindLaw. FindLaw is a fairly comprehensive directory of legal Web sites and has an immigration law page at http://www.findlaw.com/01topics/20immigration/index.html. The immigration links are divided into categories such as: Laws and Government Documents; Mailing Lists and Usenet Groups; Government Agencies; and Law Firms.

The FindLaw Library is a collection of legal articles and documents on the Web, and it has a section devoted to immigration law at http://library.findlaw.com/Immigration.html. When I checked, it had 30-40 immigration law documents, primarily federal government publications. Government publications include "A Guide to Naturalization" by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and "American Citizen-Foreign National Marriages: Visa Procedures" by the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Consular Affairs. In addition, it has articles such as "Business Immigration Horizon: Timing Is Everything When It Comes To Professional Visas" by the law firm of Littler Mendelson, P.C.

Primary Sources

Relevant federal statutes include the Immigration and Naturalization Act (Title 8 of the U.S. Code). These statutes are available on a number of sites, including that of the INS at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/lawsregs/INA.htm. You should not, however, rely on this site as a current version of federal immigration statutes because there is no information on the site indicating how current the database is. Hopefully, the INS will correct this problem! I recommend using another source for federal statutes, such as the site by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/8/. When you are viewing a section of the U.S. Code at this site, be sure to click on the "Updates" link to check for any public laws amending that section.

The INS Web site also has a database of federal regulations (Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations) at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/lawsregs/8cfr.htm. Again, I do not recommend relying on this database because there is no information stating how current the database is. Instead, try Cornell at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/cfr/ or the National Archives and Records Administration at http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/. Be sure to update your research by checking the Federal Register at the National Archives and Records Administration’s site.

Decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) are available on two government Web sites, and the coverage of the two sites varies. The more current site is the U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) at http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/efoia/bia/biaindx.htm. Recent decisions are added to the site right away. The earliest decision on the site is dated October 4, 1996. The other site is the INS page at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/lawsregs/biadec.htm. This site is much less current (the most recent decision being December 18, 1998), but it is a good source for older decisions (the earliest decision being December 12, 1983). You can also find recent BIA decisions for free on Matthew Bender’s site at http://www.bender.com. (Click on "Immigration" on the left-hand side of the screen.) This site is intended as an update for subscribers to Matthew Bender’s CD-ROM and Web databases. New decisions are added right away, and the oldest decision on the site is dated January 8, 1998.

Decisions of the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer are available on the EOIR site at http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/. The decisions are hard to find on the Web site unless you have learned that this type of information is often under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Information. From the EOIR main page, click on "EOIR FOIA Information" on the left-hand side of the screen. Click on "Decisions, Policy Statements and Administrative Procedures," then "Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer Index of Decisions."

Forms

Perhaps the most useful part of the INS Web site is the availability of over 50 forms. These are easily accessible from the INS main page (http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/index.htm). The forms are available in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF), so you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these forms. The Reader is available on the Web for free at http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html. The forms may not be filled out online, but must be printed and mailed to the INS.

Other particularly nice parts of the INS site are pages providing information about local field offices and helpful "How Do I ...?" guides on a wide variety of topics.

U.S. Department of Labor

Immigration law researchers will want to bookmark the online "Immigration Collection" of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges at http://www.oalj.dol.gov/libina.htm. This site has recent Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) en banc decisions; the 1992 Judges' Benchbook: Alien Labor Certification, 2d ed. with links to the January 1997 supplement; issues of Immigration Newsletter, which contains summaries of selected labor-related decisions on immigration matters other than permanent alien labor certification; the full text of other recent U.S. Labor Department immigration decisions; immigration statutes; final, interim and proposed regulations; and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (4th ed. rev. 1991).

For employment statistics and projections, check out the Web site of the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics at http://stats.bls.gov/, which has the most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook and much more.

Current Awareness

Immigration law practitioners need to stay current with the happenings of Congress and agencies such as the INS. This can be accomplished on the Web by frequently checking sites such as the ones described below.

The home page of the American Immigration Lawyers Association is a good source for news about current federal legislation. Although part of the site is restricted to members, useful information is available to the public. To find it, click on "AILA Newsroom" on the left-hand navigation bar.

Immigration Communique is provided by Federal Publications, Inc., the editors of Interpreter Releases. The site is updated weekly and has short news articles on immigration law. The table of contents (but not the full text) of the current Interpreter Releases is included.

Law Journal EXTRA!’s immigration page has news articles from the New York Law Journal and the National Law Journal.

The law firm of Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine publishes a monthly newsletter called Immigration Bulletin that is available full text on their Web site at http://www.visalaw.com/bulletin.html.

Conclusion

Because any writing about the Web is soon out of date, you can "update" this article by checking the immigration law page of the Web site of the Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law, at http://www.unl.edu/lawcoll/library/topic_immigration.html or one of the comprehensive "mega sites," such as FindLaw.