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Appealing Immigration Decisions - Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

Note: This legal guide is for informational use only. One should not act or refrain to act solely based on the information provided. No attorney client relationship is created unless a retainer is signed by the attorney and the client.

The Board of Immigration Appeals is the highest administrative tribunal for interpreting and applying immigration laws. It has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions rendered by Immigration Judges and certain decisions made by the Department of Homeland Security. The Board is located in Falls Church, Virginia, at the headquarters of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The Board usually decides appeals by conducting a "paper review" of appealed cases, but will occasionally hear oral arguments. Most appeals reaching the Board involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. Other cases which may come before the Board include the exclusion of aliens applying for admission to the United States, petitions to classify the status of alien relatives for issuance of preference visas, fines imposed on carriers for the violation of immigration laws, and motions for reopening and reconsideration of previously rendered decisions. The decisions of the Board are binding on the immigration courts, unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a federal court.

The Board consists of fifteen members, including a Chairman and up to two Vice Chairmen. Most cases are adjudicated by a single Board Member. Cases which involve the need to settle inconsistencies among rulings of different immigration judges, establish a precedent construing the meaning of laws, regulations, or procedures, review a decision by an Immigration Judge or DHS that is not in conformity with the law or applicable precedents, resolve a case or controversy of major national import, review a clearly erroneous factual determination by an Immigration Judge, or reverse the decision of an Immigration Judge or DHS in a final order (other than nondiscretionary dispositions) are decided by a panel of three members. The panel renders decisions by majority vote. Four categories of people may present cases to the Board: unrepresented aliens, attorneys, accredited representatives, and certain kinds of individuals who are expressly recognized by the Board. Due to the complexity of immigration and nationality laws, the Board recommends that those who can obtain professional representation do so. Unlike criminal proceedings, the government is not obligated to provide legal counsel to aliens in immigration proceedings. Upon the entry of a decision, the Board serves its decision upon the parties by regular mail. An order issued by the Board is final, unless and until it is stayed, modified, rescinded, or overruled by the Board, the Attorney General, or a federal court.

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