In an attempt to encourage immigrants to migrate from the eastern seaboard to western areas of the United States members of Congress passed the Homestead Act. The legislation stated that the head of a family could acquire a section of land consisting of 160 acres, settle it, and cultivate it for five years. At the end of the five year period, if the head of the family had become a citizen or declared his intention to become a citizen, he would gain ownership of the land.
At the first session of the 37th Congress on 8th December, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln strongly recommended national legislation to encourage immigration to the United States. A committee was established to look into this proposal and in July, 1864 a bill was passed by Congress that provided for the appointment of a Commissioner of Immigration. This bill was amended in 1866 to increase the number of commissioners and to set up immigration agencies in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Norway.