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Administrative Law Research: Immigration Concentration Class Site

Westlaw Tutorials

Click here and here for two useful Westlaw tutorials about regulatory research.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the official publication for the current regulations of federal agencies. After a new or amended final regulation is published in the Federal Register, it is codified by topic in the CFR. (Example: Title 8 of the CFR is about aliens and nationality, so all regulations about immigration, naturalization, etc. are codified by topic in that title.)

Remember that no federal statutory research is COMPLETE without finding any applicable federal regulations.

Organization of CFR

The CFR is organized much like the United States Code (USC). The regulations are codified by topic in 50 titles that are divided into chapters, subchapters, parts, and sections. The CFR titles do not necessarily correspond to the USC titles of the same topic.

Citation Format

Citation example - 8 C.F.R. § 312.1

8 = title number

312 = part number

312.1 = section number


Finding Federal Regulations

Yayayayayay there is NOMUCnew to learn about searching for federal regulations because statutes and regulations are so similar. 


  1. Federal regulations and statutes look alike (and are sometimes mistaken for each other)
  2. The Code of Federal Regulations is organized just like the United Statutes Code into titles, chapters, etc.
  3. On Westlaw or Lexis, the federal regulations have the same editorial enhancements as statutes – case notes of decision, historical annotations, KeyCite/Shepard’s symbols, etc.
  4. Federal regulations and statutes are searchable in the exact same way (see below) 

MORE GOOD NEWSSearching for federal regulations is like search for Arizona regulations.



You can find CFR citations while reading secondary sources, cases, statutes, etc.


Westlaw - Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

  1. Subject index
  2. Table of contents
  3. Keyword searching (natural language or terms and connectors)

Lexis - Code of Federal Regulations

  1. Subject index (available in a separate databases - Code of Federal Regulations - Index)
  2. Table of contents
  3. Keyword searching (natural language or terms and connectors)

Sources of the CFR

Like many primary sources of law, the CFR is available from both the government and commercial vendors.

Useful for Research Purposes


Since the other GPO versions of the CFR are so out of date (see below), the GPO finally did the public a favor and created the e-CFR. It is a vast improvement since it is updated daily with the new and amended regulations published in the Federal Register. The search features are okay, though not as good as those available from commercial vendors (Westlaw and Lexis).

Westlaw and Lexis

The Westlaw and Lexis versions of the CFR are by far the easiest to use for the following reasons:

  1. They have indexes
  2. They have sophisticated search features
  3. They are almost but not quite as up to date as the e-CFR (since both systems get their updates from the e-CFR)
  4. They have KeyCite (Westlaw) and Shepard's (Lexis) which make it easy to update CFR sections and check their validity
  5. They have useful research annotations that help with research (cases that interpret the regulations, secondary sources that explain them, and historical information)

Useless for Research Purposes

Print Version

The official version of the CFR is the print version published by the GPO. 

Update Schedule

While new regulations continually go into effect on a daily basis, the printed volumes of the CFR are issued only once each calendar year:

Therefore, the official print version of the CFR is greatly out of date and virtually useless for research. There is not even a reason for its existence anymore now that an authenticated copy of each print CFR volume is available on the govinfo site (see below).

The CFR version on the site is an authenticated copy (certified by the GPO to be true and correct) of the official print CFR. Like the print version, it is still horribly out of date, and therefore not useful for research. Also, the search features on the site make it difficult to search. There is no reason to use this version unless you are looking for the date of a volume to include for a Bluebook citation format.


CFR Sections

A CFR section contains a number of different parts and the parts are different on different versions of the CFR. The commercial services (Westlaw, Lexis, CCH) have better annotations to help with research (cases that interpret the regulations, secondary sources that explain them, etc.).

Westlaw Example - 8 CFR § 312.1

e-CFR Example - 8 CFR § 312.1