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The Board of Immigration of Appeals (BIA)

The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) is part of the U.S. Department of Justice and it was entrusted the mission of an administrative appellate body. In removal proceedings, the decisions of BIA are the final administrative action.  However, most BIA decisions can be appealed to a U.S. Court of Appeals.

The BIA may affirm the decision of an Immigration Judge.  Alternatively, the Board may either reverse or remand a Judge’s decision.

The jurisdiction of the BIA extends beyond removal proceedings.  For instance, if the USCIS denies an I-130 family-based petition, the petitioner may appeal to the BIA.  If the BIA affirms the denial, the appeal is not to the Court of Appeals but to the Federal District Court.  

The BIA allows certain non-attorneys to represent clients. However, non-attorneys must be part of a BIA-recognized organization (generally a nonprofit), and must have obtained BIA accreditation. practice manual for appearing before the BIA is available from the U.S. Department of Justice.


The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. It is authorized 23 Appellate Immigration Judges, including a Chief Appellate Immigration Judge and one or two Deputy Chief Appellate Immigration Judges. The BIA is located at EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. Generally, the BIA does not conduct courtroom proceedings – it decides appeals by conducting a “paper review” of cases. On rare occasions, however, the BIA hears oral arguments of appealed cases, predominately at headquarters.

The BIA has been given nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals from certain decisions rendered by Immigration Judges and by district directors of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a wide variety of proceedings in which the Government of the United States is one party and the other party is an alien, a citizen, or a business firm.

BIA decisions are binding on all DHS officers and Immigration Judges unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a federal court. Most BIA decisions are subject to judicial review in the federal courts. The majority of appeals reaching the BIA involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. Other cases before the BIA include the exclusion of aliens applying for admission to the United States, petitions to classify the status of alien relatives for the issuance of preference immigrant visas, fines imposed upon carriers for the violation of immigration laws, and motions for reopening and reconsideration of decisions previously rendered.

The BIA is directed to exercise its independent judgment in hearing appeals for the Attorney General. BIA decisions designated for publication are printed in bound volumes entitled Administrative Decisions Under Immigration and Nationality Laws of the United States.

Practice Advisory

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