If you lose your case in Immigration Court, you can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"). Conversely, if you win your case and the DHS attorney (the prosecutor) is unhappy with that outcome, DHS can appeal. Here, we'll talk about what happens during an appeal to the BIA.

Once the Immigration Judge ("IJ") makes a decision, the parties have 30 days to file an appeal to the BIA. The IJ should indicate on his decision when the appeal is due, meaning the appeal must be received by the BIA on or before the due date. Otherwise, the IJ's decision is final and the case is over. Appeals are filed using Form EOIR-26. The fee is currently $110 (check to "United States Department of Justice") or you can request a fee waiver.

The EOIR-26 is the notice of appeal. On the form, you must indicate the reason(s) why you are appealing. Here, you have to be specific, as indicated in the form instructions. If not, the BIA could dismiss your appeal on that basis alone. When I file an EOIR-26, I list the reasons for the appeal and I also note that we "reserve the right to raise additional arguments in our brief." Next, you have to check a box indicating whether or not you want oral argument. The BIA rarely holds oral arguments (where the attorneys come before Board Members to discuss the case), and so whether you check yes or no probably doesn't make much difference. But if you have a burning desire to present your case in person, check "yes" and maybe you'll be invited to Falls Church for an oral argument. The EOIR-26 also requires you to indicate whether you will file a brief. A "brief" is a legal argument explaining why the IJ's decision should be overturned. While you can file the brief and the Notice of Appeal together, it is more common to file the brief later on. Be aware that if you check "yes" to the brief, you will be required to file a brief, and if you fail to do so, your appeal will be dismissed.

The EOIR-26 should be mailed to the BIA at the address specified in the instructions. Include with the appeal a copy of the IJ's decision. If you have a lawyer, the lawyer should include an EOIR-27, appearance of counsel form. You have to send a copy of the entire packet to the DHS attorney's office (the office of the "prosecutor" who litigated your case before the IJ). You can find their address here.

After the EOIR-26 is filed, you will receive a receipt. You are allowed to remain in the United States while the appeal is pending. You can also renew your Employment Authorization Document ("EAD") while the appeal is pending.

If you indicated on the EOIR-26 that you plan to file a brief, the BIA will send a briefing schedule. How long it takes to get the briefing schedule is hard to predict. For a detained case, it may take a month or two, but for a non-detained case, it probably takes anywhere from six to 18 months. Along with the briefing schedule, you will receive a transcript of the Immigration Court case. This document contains all the discussions that took place at each appearance before the IJ. Depending on the case, it is usually very helpful to have the transcript, as oral statements made in court are often relevant to the argument you will make on appeal. For this reason, we do not submit a brief when we file the EOIR-26. We wait until we have the transcript and can then submit a more complete--and hopefully more convincing--argument.

Once the briefing schedule arrives, you have 21 days to file the brief (why they give so little time to write the brief, I do not know, but I complained about it here). You can ask for an additional 21 days, but you have to articulate a reason why you need more time.

The brief is the heart of the appeal. In it, you explain why the IJ erred and ask the BIA to overrule the court's decision. You can see a sample brief here.

Some types of IJ decisions are easier to overturn than others. If the judge denied your case based on credibility (in other words, because the IJ thinks you lied), the BIA will only overturn the decision if it is clearly erroneous. On the other hand, if the IJ found you credible, but determined that you did not meet the legal standard for asylum, the BIA reviews the decision "de novo," meaning that the Board will make its own decision and will not defer to the reasoning of the IJ. Put another way, the standard of review for factual errors is high and for legal errors is lower, and so in general, it is easier to win an appeal where you are arguing that the IJ made an error in interpreting the law rather than an error assessing credibility.

All that said, it is difficult to win any appeal at the BIA. That has always been the case, but the situation got worse in 2019, when the Trump Administration elevated six Immigration Judges known for their high denial rates to the Board. As a result, the Board is even more unlikely to overturn an IJ's negative decision. Nevertheless, it can sometimes happen, and if you are not satisfied with the results in Immigration Court, you have the right to appeal.

After you file the brief, the wait time for a decision is unpredictable. Cases where the non-citizen is detained are faster--maybe another one to three months (on top of the time you already waited before the briefing schedule was issued). Non-detained cases are much slower, and can take anywhere from six months to a year or more.

Finally, you will receive a decision. Typically, either the BIA dismisses the appeal, meaning that the IJ's decision stands, or remands the case back to the judge to remedy any errors and correct the decision (and hopefully grant relief, but this is not guaranteed and varies by case).

If you do not like the BIA's decision, you can file a petition for review to the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over your case. Filing such a petition does not stop ICE from deporting you, though you can (and should) ask the federal court to issue an order "staying" (preventing) your removal while the federal appeal is pending. Such cases are usually difficult to win, and they are procedurally complicated. You can learn more about litigating an immigration case in federal court here. From the federal appeals court, the next--and final--step is the United State Supreme Court. Very few cases reach that level, and so usually if the BIA is not the end of the road, the federal appeals court is.

Unfortunately, the entire immigration system is legally complex, and that is particularly true of BIA cases, where legal arguments may not be apparent to a non-lawyer. If you have a case before the Board, your best bet is to find a decent lawyer to help you. You can learn more about the whole process in the BIA Practice Manual. You may also be interested in the BIA Pro Bono Project, which matches attorneys with BIA cases (usually for noncitizens who are detained). Finally, there is this website, which helps non-represented applicants find a pro bono (free) lawyer. Despite all the difficulties, it is still possible to win at the BIA, and if you are not satisfied with the IJ's decision, you can appeal and seek a better result.

Originally posted at www.Asylumist.com