Filing an Appeal on an Unfavorable Immigration Decision
Florida Immigration Attorney
If your US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) application is denied, you may file an appeal with the AAO (Administrative Appeals Office). The AAO hears appeals for over 50 different types of visa petitions and applications. Most applications for non-immigrant and work-based visas fall under this category, as does the ability to re-apply for entry into the United States after being deported (I-212 waiver).
When a USCIS officer issues a decision, you have 30 days to file an appeal with the AAO. Appeals decisions are typically made within six months but might take longer. In cases of emergency or hardship, expedited appeals may be allowed.
For you to better understand issues concerning filing an appeal on an unfavorable immigration decision, our Florida immigration attorney will go over the following topics with you:
- Types of immigration cases that are appealable to the AAO (Administrative Appeals Office).
- How to file an appeal to the AAO (Administrative Appeals Office).
- How long to file an immigration appeal.
- How much it costs to file an appeal.
- Self-representation in a Florida AAO appeal.
- What to do if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer in Florida.
- How long it takes to appeal to the AAO.
- The AAO process.
- If there is a necessity to argue your case personally.
- What to do if your appeal is denied by the AAO.
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Types of Immigration Cases that are Appealable to the AAO (Administrative Appeals Office)
The AAO is in charge of reviewing all of the decisions that are made by officers of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There are around fifty various types of visa petitions and applications that are appealable to AAO, such as:
- Most petitions for work immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
- Investor visa applications under the EB-5 program.
- Applications for Temporary Protected Status
- Applications for K-1 fiancé(e) visa
- Requests for a waiver of inadmissibility.
- Requests for readmission after deportation or removal (I-212 waiver)
- Applications for special immigration visas.
- Orphan petitions
- Applications for T visas for human trafficking victims and related applications for status adjustments
- U visa applications for crime victims and related applications for status adjustments.
- Applications for citizenship and naturalization certificates
- Applications to keep a home for naturalization grounds
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rulings that a surety bond has been violated
An immigrant can choose not to appeal the denial of a benefit request by a field office. When USCIS denies a request for immigration benefit, it doesn’t save the filing date and does not provide a merits-based judgment that may be appealed to the AAO.
Decisions issued by immigration judges in the court process (deportation orders, for example) are likewise beyond the scope of the Administrative Appeals Office, as are those made by the DHS (Department of Homeland Security). When possible, such decisions are forwarded to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
How to File an Appeal to the AAO?
Generally, appeals are filed with a Notice of Appeal or Motion (Form I-290B). However, there are a few exceptions:
- Appeals of judgments on Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, are filed using Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings Under Section 336.
- Appeals of judgments on special immigrant worker and legalization petitions, as well as revocation of lawful temporary resident status, are made using Form I-694, Notice of Appeal of Decision Under Sections 245A or 210 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
- Appeals of decisions on an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, or other decisions that are raised to the BIA are filed using Form EOIR-29, Notice of Appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals from a Decision of a DHS Officer, with the office that issued the decision on the petition.
When you are told of an unfavorable decision that can be appealed, you will also be given directions on how to file an appeal.
How Long to File an Immigration Appeal?
In general, you need to file an appeal within 30 days of receiving the judgment (not the date when you received the judgment). Some cases, like the revocation of a petition’s approval, may have a shorter appeal timeframe, such as 15 days. Your judgment will state how much time you are given to file an appeal. This deadline cannot be extended. However, an additional three days are granted when your judgment is sent to you by mail (33 days for a case of denial and 18 days for a case of revocation).
How Much it Costs to File an Appeal?
Most appeals to the AAO now have a $675 filing fee. This cost doesn’t include any attorney or other representation fees.
If an immigrant can’t afford to pay the filing fee, they may request a waiving of fee using Form I-912 from the USCIS.
The USCIS may waive fees if:
- An immigrant or their spouse is the head of the household and receives a government benefit that is means-tested;
- The household income of the immigrant is or is below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines; or
- Another financial crisis has befallen the alien.
All appeal petitions must include the correct filing fee or a request for a waiver of fee, or else the appeal is going to be denied.
The costs charged by USCIS change on a regular basis. Please consult the list of USCIS fees to find the most up-to-date information.
Self-representation in a Florida AAO Appeal
Immigrants can represent themselves in an appeal to the AAO.
However, there are specific rules that have to be observed in AAO appeals. Furthermore, AAO is bound by prior USCIS court cases and rulings. These should often be well-researched and defended.
Immigrants are mostly better off having their AAO appeal handled by an attorney or by an authorized representative like an accredited agent or a law student.
What to do if You Cannot Afford to Hire a Lawyer in Florida?
Immigrants who can’t afford to hire an attorney can access low-cost or no-cost legal assistance, such as those provided by the Immigration Advocates Network.
How Long it takes to Appeal to the AAO?
The AAO reports that 97% of all appeals are resolved in 6 months. However, certain cases could take more time. For example, the AAO may need more documents, or the case could be more complex and necessitate further review.
In general, appeals are handled in the order that they are received. However, in an emergency, an immigrant may possibly get an expedited review of their case. The immigrant must produce proof of at least one of the following when requesting expedited processing:
- Delays would result in significant financial loss for a business or individual;
- There is a major emergency situation;
- A humanitarian crisis exists;
- An unjustified delay was caused by a USCIS handling error, which may be corrected by returning the case to its original order;
- A nonprofit group has requested expedited processing as a way to further the United States’ cultural and social objectives.
- A Department of Defense officer or another United States government body asks for expedited processing since a delay would be unfavorable to the government; or
- The USCIS has a strong interest in expediting the appeal.
The AAO Process
Administrative appeals involve 2 stages:
- The preliminary field review,
- The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) appellate review, if required.
Firstly, the office which made the unfavorable decision will perform an “initial field review: This process could take approximately 45 days to complete. The USCIS office will assess the appeal during the first field review and decide whether it should take action in favor of the immigrant.
If the office does not make favorable action, the appeal will be forwarded to the Administrative Appeals Office. After that, the immigrant will get a Notice of Transfer to the AAO.
Following that, the AAO will undertake an appellate review. This may take as long as six months (or more) after receiving a full case record following the first field review.
If there is a Necessity to Argue your Case Personally
In most cases, the Administrative Appeals Office conducts its review purely on the basis of documents.
However, the AAO may allow a written request for an oral argument in the following circumstances:
- An especially significant issue is involved in the case, and
- The AAO decides that a supplemental argument would be beneficial.
A request for oral argument has to be submitted in writing in one of two ways:
- When an immigrant or their attorney or agent files an appeal or petition to reconsider, or
- When filing a supporting brief.
The request has to state clearly in writing the reason an oral argument is needed. If AAO grants the request, the alien will be notified of the date, time, location, and terms of the oral argument.
What to do if your Appeal is Denied by the AAO?
A denial of an I-290B appeal may be challenged in federal district court. A decision by the AAO to deny a request is presumed to have exhausted all administrative options, which is a precondition for a federal district court challenge. A federal court challenge to an AAO denial is substantially more expensive than an AAO appeal, but in certain situations, it may be the best strategic move.
Do you Need Help with Immigration Appeal?
If you need help concerning immigration appeal, contact AmLaw Group now to book a consultation with our Florida immigration lawyer!
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