Receiving a decision from a judge that denies you or a loved one a visa to stay in the United States can feel devastating. However, a court ruling is not always the last word in immigration cases. Just as many people appeal court decisions in other areas of law, you can also appeal an immigration decision to a higher authority. The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is one such authority.

The Justice Department explains that the BIA is an administrative body located in Falls Church, Virginia. While the BIA hears appeals of court decisions, it does not conduct them like ordinary courtroom proceedings. BIA determines appeals of past decisions by reviewing the decision on paper. In uncommon instances, the BIA will hear oral arguments, and usually hears these arguments at its Virginia headquarters.

Citizens and non-citizens may appeal to the BIA. The agency has jurisdiction that stretches across the country, so an immigrant in Florida or any other state may appeal a decision to it. Parties that appeal to the BIA are not limited to individual persons. Business firms may also appeal decisions to the BIA.

The BIA does not hear all appeals. The decisions the agency hears generally involve contests of removal orders or hearing applications of relief from government approval. The agency also hears appeals to reopen and reconsider existing court decisions. People also appeal to the BIA to legally classify non-citizen relatives so they can receive preference immigrant visas or to appeal fines due to infringing on immigration laws.

A BIA decision may not be the final word in the appeals process. While the BIA may overturn a prior decision, a number of ways exist to overturn the BIA appeal. The government may appeal the decision to a federal court, which could overturn the decision or modify it. The U.S. Attorney General might overrule or modify the BIA decision as well.

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