A Brief Guide to the Immigration Appeals Process

Are you unhappy with the verdict on your recent immigration case? Maybe your visa application was denied, for example, or you were given an order of removal or deportation. In some situations, you may be able to appeal an unwanted decision and possibly receive a different outcome. Here’s an overview of the immigration appeals process and how it works.

Overview of Appeals

When you make an appeal, you are asking a higher authority to review the decision made either in immigration court or by a USCIS immigration officer. An appeal is not a guaranteed way to overturn your decision, but it may be able to help you achieve a more favorable outcome.

Choosing the Right Entity

First of all, your appeal will be directed to one of two entities: the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Generally speaking, the AAO deals with visa applications, petitions for Temporary Protected Status, and similar petitions, while the BIA primarily handles deportation and relief from removal cases.

Keep in mind that not all cases can be appealed. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on which office you should choose to direct your appeal.

Appealing to the AAO

Let’s say you filed a visa application with USCIS and your petition was denied. Your denial notice will let you know if you can appeal the decision, and it will also tell you where to file and which forms to use. You must be the visa petitioner, not a relative or beneficiary, to file an appeal.

When the AAO receives your appeal, the officer who made your original decision will review the record to see if there is any reason why they should reconsider the decision. If the officer does not believe that is the case, they will forward your case to the AAO or BIA for further review.

Your appeal rights and requirements will depend on the category of your immigration case, so make sure you carefully review your letter of denial before filing. You typically have 30 days to appeal from the date of your decision.

Appealing to the BIA

In this scenario, you most likely attended a merits hearing in immigration court, and the judge denied your case. You may have the right to appeal the decision, though it’s not guaranteed. If your lawyer thinks you can appeal the case, you will file it with the BIA headquarters in Falls Church, VA.

You will usually file Form EOIR-26 to make your appeal. This appeals process is mostly done on paper, so you won’t have to visit the BIA yourself. In rare cases you’ll be asked to attend a hearing. Once they receive your appeal package, the BIA will review your case to determine if the first immigration judge made the right decision based on all the original information.

Your appeal package must be filed and received within 30 days of the judge’s initial order. Your attorney will help you put together the forms, supporting documents, and arguments you’ll need to make a successful appeal. The BIA notice should send you a notice to let you know they received your package. The final decision can take months or years, but you have the right to stay in the US in the meantime—and you should stay, because your appeal will be canceled if you leave the country.

As you may have noticed, your attorney will be integral to the immigration appeals process. They will be able to keep you informed, properly compose your application, and lay out the arguments in your favor to ensure your appeal succeeds. Sanchez-Roig Law Firm, P.A. can do all of this and more. Give us a call to get supportive, knowledgeable guidance throughout the appeals process.