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Recognition

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

Background

Fees, Funding, and Finances

Staffing and Representatives

Resources

Application

Maintenance and Renewal

Still Have Questions?

Background

  •  What is recognition?

    • "Recognition" is when the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) gives a non-profit organization in the United States permission to practice immigration law before either the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and/or the Executive Office for Review (EOIR), which includes the immigration courts and the BIA. By regulation, a non-profit religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization established in the United States that has been approved for recognition is called a recognized organization.

  •  Why should my organization seek recognition?

    • Recognized organizations can help aliens apply for immigration benefits (including asylum, adjustment of status, and naturalization), represent them in immigration court, or assist them with appeals from immigration judge decisions.

      Non-profit status, by itself, is not enough to qualify your organization to represent aliens before DHS or EOIR. If your organization wants to assist indigent or low income aliens, and you do not have a licensed attorney on staff, your organization must apply for recognition.

      If your non-profit organization wishes to help indigent or low income aliens, recognition helps these aliens find your organization. The BIA lists recognized organizations on the EOIR website, and aliens looking for trustworthy free or low cost services consult that listing to locate recognized organizations.
Fees, Funding, and Finances

  •  How does my organization show its non-profit status?

    • Generally, your organization provides either a determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service approving section 501(C)(3) status or other tax records showing its non-profit status. Your organization should make sure that the certification of non-profit status reflects the name of the organization or clearly explains the relationship between the organization and its nonprofit status.

  •  How does my organization demonstrate its religious, charitable, or social service mission?

    • Your organization should submit documents such as its charter, by-laws, or articles of incorporation, organization, or association to show its religious, charitable, or social service mission.

      While there is no one specific document required by the BIA, your organization may want to provide letters of recommendation from community members, particularly letters showing the organization's involvement and commitment to the community it serves and the quality of its services.

  •  What are nominal fees or charges?

    • "Nominal" is not defined by a specific dollar amount, but refers to a small quantity. As a rule of thumb, fees should be consistent with what low income immigrants served by the organization can afford to pay.

  •  How can my organization show it charges nominal fees?

    • Each organization and community is different, and the BIA considers each organization's fees in the context of its own circumstances, such as where you are located and what you do. You can help the BIA understand your fee schedule by telling us what each fee is and what it includes. If your organization does not charge fees, you should clearly indicate that. Provide a detailed list of the services included with each fee. For example:

      -When does the organization waive fees and which ones?

      -Does the organization reduce fees for additional family members or limit the total charge per family?

      -Does the fee include the USCIS filing fee or a fee waiver request?

      -Does the organization charge separately for attending USCIS interviews?

      -Does the fee include translations of accompanying documents or is translation of documents a separate fee? If the fee schedule reflects a charge per page for translation of documents, is there a maximum charge?

      If your organization does not charge a fee for certain services, you should say which are free and which are not. Therefore, it is helpful to provide as much information as possible to help the BIA determine whether the organization makes nominal charges.

  •  Are financial records needed to show my organization's funding?

    • Yes. Financial records help the BIA understand how your organization is funded.

      To be clear, your organization is not expected to submit all of its financial records. However, you should include sufficient information to show your organization is not dependent on fees or membership dues. Similarly, documentation identifying sources of income from fees, grants, donations, or other sources - as well as the organization's operating expenses - are helpful to explain how the organization functions. An annual report, operating budget for the past and current fiscal year, and audits are financial records frequently submitted with a recognition application.
Staffing and Representatives

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

    • No, but immigration legal training is available through a variety of sources, such as state bar associations, law schools, national non-profit networks, and recognized organizations

  •  What is adequate knowledge and why does my organization need to show experience in immigration law and procedure?

    • Practically speaking, an organization has adequate knowledge when it can represent its clients effectively. When aliens come to an organization, the organization needs at least one attorney or accredited representative on staff who can identify a wide range of legal immigration issues and provide knowledgeable legal advice. The organization's staff must know when to seek further legal guidance or when necessary, to refer the case elsewhere.

      An accreditation application can be submitted concurrently with the recognition application.

  •  How does my organization show our staff has adequate knowledge?

    • There is no particular documentation required to show adequate knowledge, but your organization can show the knowledge of its staff through detailed resumes, documentation of training, and letters of recommendation.

      -Resumes of staff: Resumes provide the background of your organization's staff. Resumes, and any attachments, should include educational instruction and degrees, dates and descriptions of relevant employment, volunteer work, awards, and other pertinent information, such as bar memberships for licensed attorneys. This information gives the BIA a better picture of your organization's in-house expertise.

      -Training: Knowledge is also shown through a list with dates and descriptions of relevant training such as conferences, continuing legal education (CLE) courses attended, webinars, and personalized instruction. Certificates of completion and the programs or syllabi of topics covered are especially helpful and highly recommended.

      -Letters of recommendation: The BIA values supporting letters from persons and institutions who can describe with particularity the immigration knowledge of the organization's staff and how the author of the letter knows the staff member and his or her expertise. Letters should also speak to the staff's comprehension of immigration law and procedure.

  •  What kind of experience does my organization need to be eligible for recognition?

    • While there is no experience specifically required to qualify for recognition, your organization's staff must be capable of providing knowledgeable immigration representation. Staff members should have some measure of meaningful supervised experience, such as hands-on training assisting aliens with the completion of immigration forms, interviewing aliens, or assisting accredited representatives or attorneys in cases before the immigration court.

      Where an organization's staff has knowledge of immigration law and procedure, but not necessarily experience in certain areas, the organization should indicate what outside guidance it has available. For example, an organization without an attorney on staff should enter into a formal written agreement with another recognized organization, an attorney, or a national non-profit network for technical advice to ensure that the organization can provide knowledgeable legal advice.

      If the applicant organization will use outside expertise to supplement its staff members' knowledge or experience of immigration law and procedure, provide copies of agreements with your application.

  •  Must my organization have an attorney on staff in order to be recognized?

    • No. To be recognized, your organization is not required to have an attorney on staff. Still, as a practical matter, organizations with licensed attorneys in good standing on staff will likely meet the required knowledge, information, and experience in immigration law and procedure for recognition.

  •  Can we be recognized if we have an attorney on staff but no accredited representative?

    • The purpose of recognition is to allow organizations to provide legal representation to low income or indigent aliens through non-attorneys when there are no attorneys on staff. Recognition allows the organization to apply for the accreditation of non-attorney staff.

  •  What does staff supervision have to do with adequate knowledge?

    • When the organization shows it has licensed attorneys or fully accredited representatives on staff who can provide technical guidance and oversight to other staff members, the BIA is more confident that the organization will provide knowledgeable representation. Having an attorney or experienced accredited representative on staff is valuable to the organization because it is often sufficient to meet the adequate knowledge and experience requirement for recognition.

      If the organization only has a partially accredited representative on staff, the organization must have access to other practitioners with greater expertise, such as (i) an attorney or (ii) another organization with an attorney or fully accredited representative on staff.

      To show it reliably serves its clients' interests, an organization with only partially accredited representatives should provide any agreements for consultation or referral with other organizations that have an attorney or fully accredited representative, or with a local immigration attorney. Give specific details of agreements to provide technical guidance, and identify any fees charged for the assistance.

  •  What is the difference between adequate knowledge for recognition and the broad knowledge of immigration law and procedure required for accreditation?

    • Immigration is a complex field of law. To qualify for recognition, your organization must show that it has the ability to identify all immigration issues, not just those the organization specializes in. Your organization needs to show it has a process to either handle the case itself, seek guidance, or have an arrangement to refer the case elsewhere when necessary. Organizations are expected to provide the bulk of immigration legal services to their clients. Therefore, the organization needs to show it has the knowledge it needs to provide effective immigration assistance to the alien population it serves.

      Relatedly, but separately, the organization must show that each accredited representative has broad knowledge of the immigration laws, even if the representative provides only limited services. If an immigration practitioner specializes too narrowly and does not have a broad familiarity with immigration law, the practitioner risks giving the aliens poor advice. Simply put, each accredited representative need not have knowledge and experience in all immigration matters, but the organization must have either staff who can handle all issues or a documented arrangement to get guidance for issues its staff cannot handle.
Resources

  •  What law resources must be available to my organization to qualify for recognition?

    • An organization must have access to immigration law and practice information to represent aliens effectively. Your organization should describe specifically what immigration law and practice resources you have immediate access to, including a law library, internet, and other legal sources.

      -Basic resources: The BIA expects the organization to have immediate access to the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Code of Federal Regulations (title 8, in particular), and BIA precedent decisions.

      -Advanced sources: Basic resources, standing alone, are not sufficient, and advanced sources must also be identified in the application. For example, the organization could have immediate access to an extensive immigration law library or have a research sharing arrangement with a recognized organization or law firm. It also might have a formal arrangement to consult with a licensed attorney or other accredited representatives. The BIA does not dictate which advanced information sources are needed (or how organizations should have access to them), but the application must persuade the BIA that the organization has all the tools that it needs to represent aliens properly.
Application

  •  How can my nonprofit organization become recognized?

    • An interested non-profit organization must apply to the BIA for recognition and be approved.

      To apply for recognition, your organization must file a "Request for Recognition of a Non-Profit Religious, Charitable, Social Service or Similar Organization" (Form EOIR-31, replacing the Form G-27). The Form EOIR- 31 is available on the EOIR website at: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/eoirforms/eoir31.pdf. The EOIR-31 form provides instructions including what should accompany the form and where to file it.

  •  Who can apply for recognition on behalf of my organization?

    • The recognition 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.

  •  Is there a fee to apply for recognition?

    • No.

  •  What does the BIA look for in a recognition application?

    • The BIA understands that every organization is different and that organizations may have very different types of staffing and supervision. Still, all organizations have to meet the regulatory and case law requirements for recognition. The BIA reviews the recognition application to determine whether the organization meets the necessary criteria, such as non-profit status, the ability to provide adequate legal representation, and nominal fees.

      For more in depth information on requirements, an organization should consult 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.

  •  Does the BIA require an organizational chart?

    • No, but it can be difficult to approve your application without one. Organizational charts are extremely helpful to the BIA because they show the cumulative knowledge and experience the organization has at its disposal. An organization should provide a chart showing the number of staff, position titles, and its supervisory structure. A chart may show oversight of work product by staff with more experience. When an organization describes how it provides in-depth guidance to its staff, it demonstrates the capacity to adequately represent the population it serves.

  •  My organization has different office locations where legal services are provided. Do I need to apply for recognition at each location?

    • Yes. If your organization has distinct offices providing legal immigration services at separate locations, the branch offices of the organization must be individually recognized. The organization should submit separate applications (with all supporting documentation) for each branch. Additionally, representatives must be accredited at the other office locations to work there.

  •  My organization's application for recognition and supporting documentation is complete. Where do I send it?

    • Send your complete original application 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 ICE and 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 recognition application or accreditation request

    • Your organization needs to send its documents to two DHS offices: the appropriate District Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the appropriate Chief Counsel for U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (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 a recognition application?

    • Times vary because each application is different. However, the standard processing time for the BIA to make a decision on the application 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 an application?

    • 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

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

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

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

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

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

    • When an application 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 application, can I submit more documents to fix it, or must I file a new application?

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

  •  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 my organization apply to DHS or an immigration judge for recognition and accreditation?

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

  •  Can an organization provide limited types of immigration services, such as VAWA applications or naturalization-related applications only?

    • Yes, but all accredited representatives still must have a broad knowledge of immigration law and procedure, even if the organization provides only specialized or limited types of immigration services.
Maintenance and Renewal

  •  Once my organization is recognized, do I have to report changes to the BIA?

    • Yes. Your organization must promptly report through formal correspondence any changes to its contact information (such as name, address, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail). The BIA also expects the organization to report any changes in staffing or structure. This is especially important if the organization no longer provides immigration services.

      With respect to accredited representatives, the organization should report any changes to the names of its accredited representatives. The organization also needs to let the BIA know if an accredited representative leaves the organization. Remember: accreditation is permission for non-lawyers to represent aliens in immigration matters on behalf of your organization only.

  •  How do we inform the BIA of an address change? If my organization's address changes, do we have to reapply for recognition and accreditation?

    • If it is only an address change, inform us of the change in writing, with Proof of Service on the appropriate District Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the appropriate Chief Counsel for U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement. Changes of address, name changes, changes in structure, etc. should be reported promptly to the Recognition and Accreditation Coordinator at the BIA.

  •  Does recognition of my organization expire?

    • No, recognition does not expire.

      Since there is no expiration of recognition, an organization must let the BIA know when it no longer provides immigration services. This allows the BIA to update its roster and point aliens only to recognized organizations currently providing immigration services.

  •  Can my organization lose its recognition?

    • Yes. The BIA may withdraw recognition of any organization that has failed to maintain the qualifications required for recognition. Also, by regulation, the DHS may conduct an investigation and ask the BIA to withdraw recognition.

      When the BIA withdraws recognition, the organization loses its status as a recognized organization. The name of the organization and the names of any accredited representatives affiliated with the organization are removed from the rosters. The organization and its staff can no longer use the BIA R&A status in community outreach, to file forms, or to enter appearances before DHS or EOIR (using the Form G-28, EOIR-27, or EOIR-28). Claiming R&A status after recognition is withdrawn would be the unauthorized practice of immigration law.
Still Have Questions?

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

Updated October 2013

 
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