dreamstime_m_84111012The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is a very powerful and influential agency in the United States.  It is one of the chief voices in the world of American immigration. Not only does the BIA have tremendous reach – including decisions made across the entire nation – but it is considered the last step in appealing through the immigration process before acceptable appeals can be brought before high U.S. courts.

It is important for anyone involved in immigration law to have a basic understanding of the BIA.  Here are 8 things RMZD believes you should know.

1. Administrative Judges are Appointed by the U.S. Attorney General
Members that sit on the BIA are appointed by the U.S. Attorney General, one of the most prominent members of the President’s cabinet and the leader of the Department of Justice. This is an indication of just how powerful a say the BIA can have in looking at decisions handed down by organizations related to U.S. immigration, including the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

2. The Board of Immigration Appeals Has Broad Reach
Because of its vital role in the Department of Justice, the BIA has very broad reach. It can review the decisions of Immigration Judges, the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), and even potential violations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This broad reach means that the decision handed down by the BIA are usually the final step of appeals within the immigration system, with further appeals only moving up the appeals process through the courts if statutes allow.

3. Most Reviews are “Paper Reviews”
The BIA will only hear oral arguments on rare occasions. The rest of the time, the BIA conducts reviews on a paper basis, meaning there are no live proceedings, only the review of written documentation.

4. The BIA Cases are Binding . . .
In addition to the broad jurisdiction held by the BIA, there is a lot of power to their rulings. These rulings are considered binding (with exceptions, as you’ll read in the next section). These rulings are binding on all Department of Homeland Security officers. However, this does not mean that the BIA has total authority. Their rulings are potentially subject to judicial review by federal courts.

5. Except When They Are Not
BIA cases are binding, except when “modified or overruled” by either the Attorney General or a federal court. So while there is a process in place for reviewing BIA decisions, it can take a lot for these decisions to be overturned. In addition, individuals do not have an automatic right to appeal a BIA decision in federal court.  The federal courts have limited the types of immigration cases they are willing to consider.

6. The BIA Typically Hears Appeals of Deportation Cases
As the Department of Justice notes, there are a variety of cases that the BIA will hear.  Many of these cases involve people appealing an Immigration Judge’s decision to deny their application for relief from deportation. These issues typically make their way up the appeals hierarchy because of their contested nature. They also involve questions pertaining to the specific rights of individuals in these cases, upon which appeals are usually based.

7. The BIA Also Issues Decision on Immigrant Visa Petitions
Some of the other frequent cases heard by the BIA include the denial of Immigrant Visa Petitions filed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. If the petition has been denied by the USCIS, and the petitioner believes that the decision was incorrect, they may then seek review with the BIA.

8. It Is Essential To Be Represented By An Immigration Attorney
As you can, proceedings before the BIA can be complex.  There are strict deadlines and requirements that must be followed.  The failure to file the necessary forms on time can lead to your case being denied, even if it would have otherwise been approved.  It is therefore extremely important to be represented by an experienced, competent immigration attorney. Contact Reeves Immigration Law Group today for a confidential consultation about your case.

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