Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

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What is the BIA?

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is tasked with the assignment of issuing appellate administrative decisions. The BIA is the highest administrative body regarding the interpretation and application of immigration laws.

The BIA is made up of 15 members and is located in Falls Church, Virginia. The BIA procedure does not involve courtroom proceedings. Instead, it listens to and decides appeals by administering a “paper review” of the cases. While it is uncommon, there are certain occasions when the BIA will choose to hear oral arguments related to an appealed case.

BIA Cases

Once a case gets to the BIA and the Board makes its decision, that decision is binding on all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers and immigration judges unless the decision is ultimately modified or overruled by the Attorney General of the United States or a federal court. Keep in mind that the BIA itself is not a federal court.

The BIA has nationwide jurisdiction. This means that the BIA has the ability to hear a broad array of cases in which the U.S. Government is one party and the other party is an alien, a citizen, or a business.

While the BIA is capable of hearing a wide variety of cases, the majority of cases it hears deals with issues regarding orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. However, cases also include:

  • The exclusion of immigrants applying for admission to the U.S.;
  • Family preference immigrant visa petitions;
  • Fines incurred by individuals who violated U.S. immigration laws; and
  • Motions for reopening and reconsidering decisions that have been previously decided.

BIA Duties & Reforms

The BIA's duties also include recognizing organizations and accrediting representatives who seek permission to practice before the Department of Homeland Security, the immigration courts, along with the BIA.

The Board strives to enable its members to decrease any and all delays currently apparent in the administrative review process. Furthermore, the BIA wishes to eradicate its existing backlog of cases and put more energy and focus towards cases which present the most significant matters requiring resolution.

Along with working to increase efficiency, the BIA also works to help further the Department of Justice's (DOJ) objectives to improve national security. This involves efforts to better enforce U.S. laws and arrange for quality assistance to both immigrants and citizens.

One specific method used by the BIA to reach its proposed reforms is the use of a three-board member review for more complex cases, those that need an explicit interpretation of law, or the correction of clear mistakes of fact.

This method allows for the BIA to review and decide simple cases efficiently and for complex cases to receive more attention from more members of the Board. Specifically, three-board member review works primarily on:

  • Resolving any inconsistencies among prior rulings by different immigration judges;
  • Creating precedent related to the meaning of laws, regulations, and procedures;
  • Deciding cases of significant national importance; and
  • Reviewing clearly erroneous factual determinations made by immigration judges.

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