Every year, hundreds of thousands of people apply to immigrate to the US. And every year, most of those applications are unsuccessful. Applications are generally turned down for genuine reasons: quotas are full, applicants don’t meet the criteria, deadlines have been missed, or people fail to provide the correct information to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services).
But mistakes do happen, and the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) exists to ensure consistency and accuracy when applying US immigration laws and policies. As with your initial immigration application, the appeals process requires care, hard work, and attention to detail. There are forms to fill in, procedures to follow, and deadlines to meet. To help you navigate your way through it all, we’ve put together this handy guide on how the AAO works.
We can’t guarantee you’ll win your case, but we can help to confirm that you’re allowed to appeal, ensure that you follow the correct procedures, and avoid any costly mistakes. Read on for details on maximizing your chances of a successful appeal.
When your US immigration application is denied, in most cases, the next step is to appeal to the AAO. The rules say that you must file your appeal within 30 days of the original USCIS decision. The stated requirement of the AAO is to respond within 180 days. It costs $675 to file an appeal, although you may be able to secure a waiver if you’re unable to pay.
There are many different sorts of immigration applications, but most appeals are handled through USCIS Form I-290B. This form covers the most common types of immigration applications, including a temporary employment visa, holiday visa, Green Card for legal status in the US, student visa, citizenship through marriage, and so on.
Most failed immigration applications are eligible for administrative appeal. However, with certain types of submissions, you’re simply not allowed to appeal the USCIS decision. You may be entitled to file a motion to have the matter reopened or reconsidered in such cases. But, you can only do that if you have new circumstances that might make a material difference to the case, or you can show that the original decision was made incorrectly.
In every instance, it’s well worth checking out all the legalities: even undocumented immigrants living in the US have certain legal rights that can be enforced.
According to the AAO, there are three types of appeal rulings: non-precedent, adopted, and precedent decisions. Those legal terms are challenging to understand for most people, so let’s look at what they mean in plain language.
When something sets a precedent, it means that a new standard has been set for the future. Well, a non-precedent decision is just the opposite of that: it simply means that existing laws, interpretations, and policies are followed and enforced. In other words, if a certain decision was made before, it will be made again. This is the most common form of decision from the AAO.
With an adopted decision, the USCIS uses a non-precedent AAO decision to inform and guide future rulings. To a non-legal mind, an adopted decision might appear to be exactly the same as a precedent, but there’s a subtle distinction. An adopted decision is considered to be legally binding for the USCIS and must be followed by all USCIS staff. However, unlike a precedent, it doesn’t apply to other sections of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security).
Occasionally, the US Government decides that AAO or DHS decisions should serve as a precedent for future rulings. This precedent may relate to a new interpretation of law and policy or respond to a new set of circumstances. In practice, this means that one case now sets an example for all future decisions in the same area.
The AAO aims to process all applications within 180 days of receipt of the appeal. In practice, the process may take longer, either because of the complexity of your case or due to administrative issues. Indeed, the current statistics from the USCIS indicate that the AAO isn’t meeting its 180-day goal for many types of immigration appeal.
In exceptional or emergency cases, you may be able to speed up the processing of your appeal. Still, you’ll need to provide compelling evidence to show why you deserve special treatment.
Appealing a decision takes a significant amount of time, money, and effort, so there’s no point in going through the process if you’ve zero chance of success. The first thing an immigration lawyer can do is to tell you whether you have a case.
Assuming you do, they can make sure you follow the correct procedures, that you don’t miss any deadlines, and present your case in the best possible way.
That said, anyone making an immigration application would do well to remember that prevention is better than cure. The best way to avoid the need for an appeal is to ensure that your application is correct and compliant in the first place. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to get a professional attorney to verify your initial application before you submit it.
You may only get one opportunity to appeal your immigration decision, so you must get it right. The helpful, experienced, and professional team at Marble can help you every step of the way, so call us now for a free case assessment. We’ll work our hardest to ensure you have the best chance of a successful appeal.