When your application for a visa, permanent residency, or citizenship is denied, it can be heartbreaking. The good news is that you can typically appeal the decision issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if you think there’s a chance it will be overturned.

Within the USCIS, the highest reviewing office is the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). The AAO can provide a few different types of decisions on immigration cases. When a case is brought before the AAO, they will look at the previous decision and all the information associated with the case to make a ruling, potentially overturning the original decision.

What is a Non-Precedent Decision?

Non-precedent decisions are the most common type of AAO decision. When they make this type of decision, the terms only apply to that particular case. Their reasoning for making the decision will not apply to other cases, and the USCIS’s policies will remain unchanged.

Most cases are not complex enough to set precedents for future decisions. Instead, the AAO considers them on a case-by-case basis and aims to provide fair decisions based on the circumstances.

What is a Precedent Decision?

Precedent decisions are made when the AAO determines that a decision should apply to future cases. When this occurs, the decision must be published and will provide precedent for similar cases in the future. Significant decisions like this are rare, and the AAO only occasionally adds a precedent decision.

What is an Adopted Decision?

An adopted decision is a ruling from the AAO that the USCIS adopts as policy. The decision is given a specific citation format and is considered binding for USCIS officers only. Sometimes, these adopted decisions will become precedent decisions.

It’s important to note that adopted decisions, though binding within the USCIS, can be overruled by other precedent decisions. They can also be replaced by new USCIS policies.

How Long Do You Have to File an Appeal?

If your application for a visa or change in status is denied, you might have the right to an appeal. You should receive information about where to file your appeal when you are notified that your request has been denied. You might only get 30 days to appeal the AAO, so it’s important to respond quickly.

Appealing the AAO is a challenging process and it’s very important to have experienced legal representation on your side to improve your chances of success. If you need help with the appeals process, our Hackensack, NJ law firm can help. Call (201) 883-9800 to discuss your case with our experienced immigration attorney.