Immigration and Nationality Act

In 1952, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) was passed by the  82nd United States Congress, which includes all provisions of immigration law. The INA is codified under Title 8 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) as a collection of all the national laws of the United States regarding immigration and naturalization.

INA, 1952 is also entitled as McCarran–Walter Act that collected and collated many existing provisions and reorganized the structure of immigration law. This Act modified the national origins quota system, defined under the previous Immigration Act, 1924. The Immigration Act, 1924 was the U.S. federal law enacted by the 68th United States Congress to limit the immigration of aliens into the U.S.

It was also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, which consisted of the Asian Exclusion Act and the National Origins Act. Additionally, this Act authorized the formation of the U.S. Border Patrol.

This Immigration Act, 1924 restricted the visa limits to only 2 percent of the total population of each nationality in the U.S., calculated based on the 1890 census except the immigrants from Asia who were barred under this system. Moreover. This quotas system was not applied to immigrants from the Western Hemisphere.

INA 1952 maintained and reinforced the national origins quota system of immigrant selection established by the Immigration Act of 1924 except the earlier law’s restriction on Asian immigration.

This law reset the national origins quotas to one-sixth of 1 percent of each nationality’s population to immigrate to the U.S., calculated based on the 1920 census. While the prohibition on immigrants from the Western Hemisphere sustained to be excluded from the national origin quota system.

Though the naturalization process of INA, 1952 removed the racial restrictions but the largest 85 percent of immigration quotas were allocated to western and northern Europeans, while a very tiny quota is specified for the Asian countries, with Japan’s being the largest at 185.

So, overall, immigration from Asian-Pacific countries was restricted to only 2,000 per year. This law INA, 1952 presented some other substantial reforms such as;

1. Preference System:

This Act introduced a preference system to prioritize the immigrants who were previously considered non quota immigrants (included spouses, minor children, and parents of adult U.S. citizens) under the Immigration Act, 1924.

In addition, this Act eliminated the contact labor bar and introduced employment-based preferences for aliens equipped with required potential, skills, and education. This Act also created a temporary visa category for nonimmigrants (H-1) purely based on merit and ability.

2. Primary Immigrants:

This Act considered the women as primary immigrants who could bring in spouses and minor children.

3. Class of Aliens Inadmissible and Ineligible for Visa:

This Act states that excessive alcohol user immigrants are inadmissible to the U.S. as they don’t hold good moral character.

Additionally, any polygamous alien was inadmissible or ineligible for naturalization and didn’t get immigration benefits such as employment-based visa, asylum, or relief.

4. Class of Deportable Aliens:

Under this Act, Attorney General could withhold the deportation of an alien for a certain period of time if he or she believes that alien would face physical persecution in case of returning to the home country. The period of withholding deportation depends upon the decision of the Attorney General.

5. Anti-Discrimination Provisions:

This Act also introduced various anti-discrimination provisions to prohibit the unfair employment practices faced by the aliens, giving an individual the right to file a charge of discrimination if they suffered any sort of discrimination under this law.

In successive years, continuous amendments were made in the Act to increase the ratio of foreign immigrants to the U.S. and accommodate the refugees and excluded or restricted aliens.

Symbolically, this law created significant pathways for Asian immigrants, but it also imposed a 100-visa annual limit for every Asian country. This law also created a quota system based on race rather than nationality.

Therefore, this Act was criticized for discrimination based on country, ethnicity, and gender. On the whole, INA, 1952 consists of the following five sections;

  • General Provisions
  • Immigrations
  • Nationality and Naturalization
  • Refugee assistance, and
  • Alien terrorist removal procedure.

The INA, 1952 has been amended many times over the years, but it is still part of immigration law.

After that, Immigration and Nationality Act, 1965 was enacted to create a flexible and sound policy map for immigrants and strengthen the existing immigration rules. This Act was passed by the 89th United States Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

This Act eliminated the national original quota system (basis of U.S. immigration policy since 1920) established under the INA, 1952. Moreover, the INA of 1965 introduced a seven-category preference system to prioritize the relatives and the children of U.S. citizens and the legal permanent residents, professionals and other individuals with specialized skills, and refugees.

Overall, the seven-category preference system was mainly categorized into two domains; family preferences and skill-based preferences. The family preferences include;

  • Unmarried children of United States citizens
  • Unmarried children and spouses of permanent residents
  • Married children and their dependents of United States citizens
  • Siblings and their dependents of United States citizens.

Whereas the skilled-based preferences include;

  • Individuals and their dependents who have extreme knowledge in arts and science.
  • Individuals and their dependents work in the U.S. due to labor shortages.
  • Preferences for refugees.

In this amended Act, the total immigration limit and per-country limit were maintained, but the numerical restriction on the immediate relatives (defined as children, spouses, and the parents of U.S. citizens who are 21 years or older) and special immigrants of U.S. citizens were exempted. Special Immigrants were classified into six following categories such as;

  • Immigrant and their dependents belong to the Western Hemisphere.
  • An immigrant who traveled abroad for a short period of time.
  • An immigrant who was already a U.S. citizen or applying for citizenship.
  • Religious workers.
  • U.S. government employee served 15 or more years abroad recommended by Foreign Service Office.
  • A fourteen-year-old or younger immigrant whose parent(s) cannot take care of him.


  • https://www.uscis.gov/laws-and-policy/legislation/immigration-and-nationality-act retrieved on 13 January 2022.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_and_Nationality_Act_of_1965 retrieved on 13 January 2022.
  • https://www.hsdl.org/c/tl/ immigration nationality act / retrieved on 13 January 2022.
  • https://ballotpedia.org/Immigration_and_Nationality_Act_of_1952 retrieved on 13 January 2022.
  • https://www.lbjlibrary.org/news-and-press/media-kits/immigration-and-nationality-act retrieved on 13 January 2022.
  • https://immigrationhistory.org/item/immigration-and-nationality-act-the-mccarran-walter-act/ retrieved on 13 January 2022.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Act_of_1924 retrieved on 13 January 2022.
  • https://documentedny.com/immigration-and-nationality-act-of-1952-ina/ retrieved on 13 January 2022.
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