Board of Immigration Appeals

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Seal of the Executive Office for Immigration Review

The Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") is an administrative appellate body within the United States Department of Justice. Part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the BIA reviews the decisions of the Immigration Courts and some decisions of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Further, the board reviews immigration violation arrests by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. BIA decisions are the final administrative action in a given case. The next stage of appeal after a BIA decision is usually in the United States courts of appeals if an appeal is allowed by statute.

The BIA is located in Falls Church, Virginia, and, as of April 2009, had 14 Board Members, who are administrative judges appointed by the U.S. Attorney General. The size of the full BIA varies from time to time, depending on resignations, retirements and new appointments; it may have up to 15 Board Members under the current authorizing legislation. Decisions issued by the BIA are by made up of three member panels in limited circumstances. 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(e)(6) (cases may only be assigned to such a panel under certain circumstances). Otherwise, the vast majority of cases are decided by single panel members. 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(e)(5). The single panel member can also use a process called summary affirmance, used in 10% of cases (as of 2008), to affirm the lower court without issuing a written decision. 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(e)(4); [1]; [2].

The BIA is notable in that one need not be an attorney to appear before it representing a client. However, non-attorneys must be part of a BIA-recognized organization (generally a nonprofit), and also have obtained BIA accreditation as individuals. A practice manual for appearing before the BIA is available from the U.S. Department of Justice. A handbook explaining the accreditation and recognition process is available from the nonprofit Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC).

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