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Accreditation

Below you will find Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding accreditation. Please choose from one of the following topics:

Background

Requirements

Request for Accreditation

Maintenance and Renewal

Other

Background

  •  What is accreditation?

    • "Accreditation" is when the BIA gives permission to a specially qualified non-lawyer to represent aliens on behalf of a recognized organization. The BIA will accredit non-lawyers only when they work for a recognized organization and will never accredit a non-lawyer who tries to practice immigration law on his or her own.

      There are two kinds of accreditation: "partial" and "full". A partially accredited representative may represent aliens before DHS only. A fully accredited representative may represent aliens before both DHS and EOIR (the immigration courts and the BIA).

  •  Why would a recognized organization want accredited representatives?

    • If a non-profit organization wants to provide immigration services, but does not have a licensed attorney on staff, it can ask the BIA to "accredit" qualified non-attorneys to represent aliens on the organization's behalf.

  •  Can accreditation be transferred from one individual to another? From one organization to another? From one branch of an organization to another branch?

    • The answer to all of these questions is no.

      Accreditation is given to a specific individual working for a specific organization at a specific location. It is not portable in any way.
Requirements

  •  How do the requirements for full and partial accreditation differ?

    • Fully accredited representatives can appear before the DHS, the immigration courts, and the BIA. They are expected to write legal briefs and motions, question witnesses in court, and demonstrate other oral advocacy skills. Partially accredited representatives can only practice before DHS and are not required to demonstrate the legal writing and advocacy skills required for full accreditation.

      Both fully and partially accredited representatives must demonstrate good moral character and a broad knowledge of immigration law and procedure.

      Organizations should provide documentation showing the proposed representatives have good moral character, possess a broad knowledge of immigration law and procedure, and have appropriate training and experience for the type of accreditation sought.

  •  How does my organization show its proposed representative has good moral character?

    • There is no one particular way to demonstrate good moral character. The organization must satisfy the BIA that the proposed representative is trustworthy and reliable. It is helpful, but not required, to include documentation that reflects well on the individual's character, such as:

      -letters of recommendation from attorneys, accredited representatives, community leaders, and others with personal knowledge of the individual's character.

      any easily available documents that show the lack of a criminal record, such as a police report, favorable credit reports, and background checks.

  •  How does my organization show its proposed representative has a broad knowledge of immigration law and procedure?

    • The BIA is flexible in accepting documents showing the extent of the proposed representative's understanding and familiarity with immigration law and procedure. The proposed representative must be able to readily identify immigration issues in all areas, even if the representative will focus on a particular area of immigration law. The proposed representative must know when to seek additional legal guidance. To demonstrate broad knowledge for the proposed representative, the organization may submit:

      -resume with relevant educational degrees and recent training in immigration law and procedure, with pertinent dates.

      -certificates of completion of recent training, conference programs, syllabi of courses attended, and other documentation with pertinent dates showing the extent of the representative's comprehension of immigration law and procedure.

      -certificates of completed training including an overview of immigration law and procedure and any courses relevant to the immigration services the proposed representative will be providing. Continuing legal education (CLE) classes and courses offered by bar associations, law schools, national non-profit networks, and other recognized organizations are persuasive evidence of relevant training.

  •  What type of experience is needed for partial accreditation?

    • The BIA looks for documented training in immigration services and topics practiced before USCIS. Documented hands-on experience under the supervision of an attorney or accredited representative is also helpful. Also documentation that the proposed representative has shadowed an attorney or experienced accredited representative with a recognized organization who handles similar cases may be persuasive. By way of illustration, this is what the BIA looks for:

      -a resume of the trainer or mentor

      -dates and hours of training

      -topics covered (e.g., how to complete DHS forms, interviewing aliens, or accompanying an attorney or accredited representative to interviews or to visits to DHS offices)

      -letters from attorneys, accredited representatives, mentors, or others who can confirm the representative's legal training and assess the individual's abilities to represent aliens before the DHS

      -a letter from a mentor who can confirm the dates, hours, and topics if the proposed representative received hands-on training while shadowing

  •  What additional experience is required for full accreditation

    • In order to appear not only before DHS but also before the immigration courts and the BIA, the organization should show that the proposed fully accredited representative has legal research and writing skills, and has training in trial and appellate advocacy. Some ways organizations can show this experience:

      -documentation with pertinent dates of the individual's past employment or volunteer experience involving legal research, writing, or court procedure.

      -letters of recommendation from attorneys, accredited representatives, or others who confirm the proposed representative's training and provide an assessment of his or her abilities to represent aliens before the DHS, the immigration courts, and the BIA.

      -resume of the trainer or mentor, and the specific topics covered during practical training, such as assisting attorneys or accredited representatives in preparing for interviews or court, and drafting briefs, motions, and appeals.

  •  Does the BIA provide training for organizations and non-attorneys to assist them in qualifying for recognition or accreditation?

    • Perhaps. The BIA is flexible in accepting relevant immigration training from a variety of reputable sources. When the organization provides detailed information regarding the training of its staff, the BIA can more readily assess the individual's knowledge and experience in immigration law and procedure. For example, the organization should clearly identify the provider of the training, submit the resume of the attorney or accredited representative (if applicable), document the topics covered, dates provided, and indicate the length of the training.

      In-house training is scrutinized more carefully to ensure that the proposed representative receives training that will effectively prepare him or her to represent aliens.

  •  What types of immigration training or education is the BIA looking for?

    • The BIA is aware that each organization has its own mission and specialties, and therefore no specific training or educational degree is required for all representatives or organizations.

      That said, the BIA also is aware that the quality of training varies, and as a practical matter, the BIA has greater confidence in certain types of training. For example, immigration continuing legal education (CLE) courses that are provided to attorneys and paralegals are generally viewed as persuasive documentation of knowledge and experience, especially when offered by bar authorities and bar associations. Training provided by national non-profit networks or well-established recognized organizations is also viewed in a favorable light. At the other end of the spectrum, stand-alone webinars and law firm lectures can be acceptable, but they tend to be less persuasive documentation of adequate training to represent aliens in immigration matters.

      Depending on the organization and its mission, specialized training for authorized staff may be required. For example, an organization that assists with asylum applications may be expected to show more training in this subject area.

      Even if an organization's representatives practice only before DHS, the representatives should still have a basic understanding of all aspects of immigration law. An organization's staff should be made aware of the scope and limitations of the organization's representation, and they must know when to refer an alien to an attorney or another recognized organization with additional expertise.

  •  What training topics should be documented in my application or request?

    • Immigration law is a complex field, and its many topics cannot be listed here. However, examples of core training topics include:

      -overview of the immigration system in the United States and the functions of relevant government agencies

      -family-based, employment-based, and diversity immigrant visas and the visa petition process

      -adjustment of status, including bars to admission and waivers of inadmissibility

      -the removal process, including grounds of removability and relief from removal, such as voluntary departure, cancellation, and asylum, withholding and protection under the Convention Against Torture

      -consequences of criminal convictions

      -naturalization

      Core training should also include fundamental law practice skills, such as:

      -legal research and writing

      -client management and interviewing techniques

      -managing a case in immigration court

      -ethics and professional responsibility

  •  What training documentation should my organization submit?

    • The type and extent of training depends on the type of cases your organization expects its representatives to handle. In general, the more specific the documentation, the more confident the BIA will be that the organization has the required knowledge and experience. Training programs or agendas that specify the time, place, subject matter, presenters, and organizing entity are especially helpful. So too are certificates and other proof of attendance.

  •  Does the training need to fall within a certain period of time?

    • No, but the qualifying training should be recent. Since immigration law is a complex field, a history of training that spans months and years suggests the organization's proposed representatives have broad knowledge. At the same time, however, immigration law is constantly evolving, and the absence of any recent immigration training suggests that the organization and/or proposed representative may lack a current command and familiarity with the field.

  •  Does the BIA require a specific number of training hours to demonstrate eligibility for accreditation?

    • No. The BIA does not require a specific number of hours of training, but an application or request is strengthened by each extra hour of documented training. The BIA wants to see if the proposed representative has enough hours to show the knowledge needed both to represent aliens generally and in any specialty within the mission of the organization.
Request for Accreditation

  •  Who can apply for accreditation of individuals on behalf of my organization?

    • Only a recognized organization can request accreditation for an individual. The accreditation application must be filed by an individual who is authorized to act on behalf of the organization, such as the executive director, chief executive officer, or president.

      The BIA does not accept requests from the individuals themselves - with one exception. It is acceptable for an executive director, chief executive officer, or president of the organization to request accreditation on his or her own behalf if the officer does so in the name of the organization.

  •  Does my recognized organization have to apply for accreditation for attorneys on staff?

    • No. Accreditation is intended for non-attorneys. Attorneys who are members in good standing of a bar of any state, commonwealth, possession or territory of the United States or of the bar of the District of Columbia do not need accreditation to represent aliens on behalf of a recognized organization.

  •  What form does my organization use to apply for accreditation of a proposed representative?

    • There is no required form to apply for accreditation. Your organization requests accreditation for your representatives by letter. Only a person authorized to act for an organization (such as the director, executive officer, or president) can request accreditation for its representative. Requests for accreditation must be submitted by the recognized organization on official letterhead.

  •  How does my recognized organization apply for a representative to be accredited?

    • The organization needs to file a letter and separate set of supporting documentation for each proposed representative. It is important that the letter identify the proposed representative and the organization, the name and title of the organization's official requesting the accreditation, whether the request is for initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation at that location, and whether the organization is seeking full or partial accreditation for that individual. For the sake of completeness, the BIA recommends that the organization include a copy of the BIA's last decision approving accreditation when requesting renewal of accreditation.

      For more in depth information on the accreditation process, consult the federal regulations (particularly 8 C.F.R. § 1292.2) and pertinent BIA precedent decisions, which are listed on the R&A Program webpage: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/ra.htm.

  •  Is there a fee to apply for accreditation?

    • No.

  •  Can my organization request recognition for itself and accreditation for its representatives at the same time?

    • Yes. Unless your organization has a licensed attorney on staff, it will be necessary to request both at the same time, especially if a proposed representative has the knowledge and experience in immigration law and procedure required for the organization to be recognized.

      While the application and the request(s) should be filed together, the best practice is to clearly separate the recognition application from the accreditation requests. If there are multiple proposed representatives, each representative should have his or her own packet (in case one is approvable and the other is not). Thus, if the organization submits a document to support the recognition application, and the same document supports the accreditation request, copy the document and include it with each accreditation request.

  •  Can our organization request that our partially accredited representative become a fully accredited representative? In other words, how can our accredited representative change from "DHS only" representation to "DHS and EOIR" representation?

    • A recognized organization can request a change from partial to full accreditation of its representatives at any time. That request will be treated as a new request for full accreditation.

      To change a representative's accreditation from partial to full, the organization must submit documentation indicating that the representative continues to show good moral character and a broad knowledge of immigration law and procedure. The request may also include letters of recommendation (reflecting that the request is for full, not partial) and specify additional training or experience that is pertinent to practicing before an immigration court or the BIA (such as trial and appellate advocacy, legal brief and motion drafting, and knowledge of EOIR practice and procedures).

      Even if the request for full accreditation is disapproved, the BIA will treat the partial accreditation as remaining in effect until it expires (assuming the representative still qualifies for partial accreditation). If the representative is due for renewal of accreditation and only qualifies for partial, the request for partial accreditation will be approved, and a new 3 year period of accreditation will be recorded.

  •  What if my organization has an individual that it would like to represent aliens at multiple locations?

    • Your organization cannot move accredited representatives from one branch to another unless you specifically request accreditation of the representatives at those branches. If the locations are all included in the organization's approved application for recognition, the organization can then request accreditation for the representative at each of those locations. An organization is expected to request accreditation wherever it wants the individual to represent aliens.

      A satellite or branch office of an organization would need to be recognized separately, and the organization will need to request accreditation for an individual to be accredited at each branch.

  •  Can an individual be accredited at more than one recognized organization?

    • Yes. Multiple organizations may request accreditation for the same individual.

  •  My organization has the letter and supporting documentation for accreditation ready to be filed. Where do I send it?

    • Send your request and supporting documentation with proof of service to the R&A Program Coordinator at the BIA (whose address is available on the recognition application form and EOIR website). Remember: if you do not include a proof of service of exact copies to the local DHS offices of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), your application is not considered complete.

  •  What is Proof of Service?

    • In this context, a "proof of service" (or a "certificate of service") is an organization's formal guarantee to the BIA that it has sent an exact copy of its filing to the appropriate offices of DHS. DHS has the same obligation to the organization when it files something with the BIA in response to the organization's application.

      Every filing - whether an application, document, recommendation, extension request, response to a recommendation, or other formal submission -- must clearly contain a Proof of Service.

      The recognition application, Form EOIR-31, contains a sample Proof of Service on the back of the form, which is available on-line at: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/eoirforms/eoir31.pdf.

  •  To which DHS offices do I need to send copies of the accreditation request?

    • Your organization needs to send its documents to two DHS offices: the appropriate District Director for USCIS and the appropriate Chief Counsel for ICE. These would be DHS offices that have jurisdiction over the area where your organization is located. To identify the appropriate DHS offices, you should consult the USCIS and ICE websites or a local DHS office.

  •  How long does it take to decide an accreditation request?

    • Times vary because each request is different. However, the standard processing time for the BIA to make a decision on the request is within 3 months of it becoming complete - in other words, after all documents have been submitted by both the organization and DHS.

  •  What prolongs or delays the processing of a request?

    • The most common reasons why processing times lengthen are:

      -a missing Proof of Service for one or both local offices of DHS

      -extension requests by DHS (USCIS and/or ICE) to respond to the application or request

      -extension requests by the organization to respond to a DHS unfavorable recommendation

      -piecemeal applications or requests (in other words, the organization submits some but not all of the documents and mails the rest in after the fact)

      -not stating clearly what kind of accreditation (full or partial) is being sought

      -not stating clearly where the organization wants its representative to be accredited

  •  Once the BIA receives my request, how long does it take DHS to respond? Can I ask for an extension of time to respond to DHS?

    • When a request is filed, the BIA gives DHS a 30-day deadline to review it and respond with a recommendation. Sometimes DHS requests an extension. In turn, if DHS gives an unfavorable recommendation, the organization has 30 days to respond and may ask for an extension. However, neither extension is automatic.

      Until the BIA grants an extension, the existing deadline stands. As a general practice, when the BIA grants an extension, it is usually for no more than 30 days. Longer periods may be requested, but an extension request will not be granted unless the reason is persuasive.

  •  If the BIA does not approve my request, can I submit more documents to fix it?

    • The Board issues a written decision on each request for accreditation. Your organization should submit a new request addressing the concerns in the BIA decision. You should include all of the material originally filed, along with any additional documentation. The BIA does not entertain motions in the R&A application process.

  •  Can my organization apply for accreditation of its representatives before DHS or an immigration judge?

    • No. Only the BIA has the authority to approve applications for recognition and requests for accreditation of representatives.
Maintenance and Renewal

  •  Does accreditation expire?

    • Yes. Unless renewed, accreditation expires 3 years from the date of the BIA's last decision approving accreditation. This applies to both full and partial accreditation.

  •  If an accredited representative leaves a recognized organization, what happens to that individual's accreditation?

    • The individual immediately loses accreditation with that particular organization.

      Loosely speaking, accreditation belongs to the organization, not the individual. Accreditation is authorization to represent aliens on behalf of the organization. If an accredited representative leaves, transfers, is fired, or otherwise separates from the recognized organization, that individual is no longer accredited. (If the accredited representative is recognized at multiple branches and leaves one of them, the accreditation is lost for that branch only.)

      When that happens, the organization should contact the BIA immediately, so that the representative's name will be removed from the roster of accredited representatives for that organization.

  •  Where can the exact date of expiration be found?

    • The BIA's rosters of recognized organizations and accredited representatives reflect the date a representative's accreditation expires.

      Please note that it is the organization's responsibility to monitor an accredited representative's expiration date. The BIA does not remind recognized organizations of impending expirations.

  •  What happens when the accreditation of a representative expires?

    • When accreditation expires, the individual is no longer authorized to represent aliens on behalf of that organization, and that person's name is removed from the roster of accredited representatives.

  •  If an accredited representative at our organization becomes an attorney, do I need to notify the Board?

    • Yes, your organization should advise the Board when its accredited representative becomes a licensed attorney. Since the representative no longer needs accreditation to represent aliens on behalf of the recognized organization, accreditation will be terminated, and the representative’s name will be removed from the Board’s roster of accredited representatives. (As the organization continues to provide immigration services via an attorney or accredited representative on staff, the organization’s name will remain on the roster of recognized organizations.)

  •  How does my organization renew our representative’s accreditation?

    • A renewal request is treated the same as an initial request for accreditation. However, the renewal request should include updated information regarding good moral character, immigration knowledge and experience (plus relevant legal writing and advocacy skills for full accreditation). Documentation that is especially helpful includes: a new resume, updated educational and training information, a number and the types of immigration cases worked on during the accreditation period, letters of recommendation, and other supporting documentation demonstrating that the proposed representative maintains the qualifications for accreditation.

  •  When should a renewal request be made?

    • To ensure uninterrupted accreditation, the organization should request renewal at least 60 days prior to the expiration date. The BIA highly recommends, however, submitting the request between 90 and 120 days in advance.

      Why so far out? For accreditation to be approved or renewed, the BIA has to process the request, DHS has to be given an opportunity to review and respond, the organization given an opportunity to respond to DHS (if DHS opposes the request), and then the BIA rules upon the request. Given the variables in these steps, the BIA recommends that organizations err on the early side in filing renewal requests.

  •  What happens if my organization does not request renewal of accreditation in time? Will the BIA still process the renewal application?

    • If you file less than 60 days prior to expiration, accreditation could lapse. However, if your request is untimely, the BIA will still process and consider the request, but will treat it as an initial request for accreditation.

  •  Will my accreditation expire if my renewal application is still pending?

    • You remain accredited only if the BIA receives your renewal request at least 60 days prior to your expiration. That is why the BIA recommends submitting renewal requests 90 to 120 days in advance. If you file too close to your expiration, you risk losing your ability to represent aliens while your application is pending.

      To illustrate, if your last BIA order was dated October 31, 2009, your accreditation will expire on October 31, 2012. Sixty days before that date is September 1, 2012. If the BIA receives your renewal application before September 1st, your accreditation continues while it is pending. If the BIA receives it on September 1st or after that date, your accreditation will expire on October 31, 2012.

  •  Can my organization apply for a representative’s accreditation after his/her accreditation has expired?

    • Yes, but the request will be treated as a new application, and there will be a gap in accreditation.

  •  What can my organization do to expedite the processing of a renewal request?

    • Since the BIA must provide DHS with 30 days to respond to a request for renewal, the organization might contact DHS in advance of submitting the request. The organization could ask DHS if it would be willing to provide its recommendation directly to the organization (for inclusion with its renewal filing) or to respond expeditiously to the BIA once the request is filed.

  •  My organization has the letter and supporting documentation for renewal of accreditation ready to be filed. Where do I send it?

    • Send your request and supporting documentation with a "proof of service (or a "certificate of service") to the R&A Program Coordinator at the BIA (address available on the recognition application form and EOIR website). It is essential to file the complete renewal request at least 60 days prior to expiration in order to maintain accreditation while the renewal request is pending. If you do not include a proof of service of exact copies to the local DHS offices of ICE and USCIS, your application is not considered complete.
Other

  •  Does the BIA issue ID cards to accredited representatives?

    • No, but you can see if the name of the representative and/or the organization are listed on the BIA’s rosters (available on the EOIR website). The BIA’s order approving accreditation also shows the name of the representative’s organization, the date accreditation was approved, and whether the representative has partial (DHS only) or full accreditation.

  •  What if I still have questions about the accreditation process?

Updated October 2013

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