1.2 - Function of the Board

(a) Role

The Board of Immigration Appeals is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. The Board is responsible for applying the immigration and nationality laws uniformly throughout the United States. Accordingly, the Board has been given nationwide jurisdiction to review the orders of Immigration Judges and certain decisions made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and to provide guidance to the Immigration Judges, DHS, and others, through published decisions. The Board is tasked with resolving the questions before it in a manner that is timely, impartial, and consistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act and regulations, and to provide clear and uniform guidance to Immigrations Judges, DHS, and the general public on the proper interpretation and administration of the Immigration and Nationality Act and its implementing regulations.  8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(d)(1).

The Board also has appellate review authority of disciplinary decisions of recognized organizations and representatives appearing before the Immigration Courts, DHS, and the Board.  See Chapter 11 (Discipline).

(b) Location within the Federal Government

The Board of Immigration Appeals is a component of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and, along with the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) and the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), operates under the supervision of the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. See 8 C.F.R. § 1003.0(a). In turn, EOIR is a component of the Department of Justice and operates under the authority and supervision of the Attorney General. See Appendix B (Organizational Chart).

(c) Relationship to the Immigration Court

The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) oversees the administration of the Immigration Courts nationwide and exercises administrative supervision over Immigration Judges. The Immigration Judges, as independent adjudicators, make determinations of removability, deportability, and excludability, and adjudicate applications for relief. The Board, in turn, reviews the decisions of the Immigration Judges. The decisions of the Board are binding on the Immigration Judges, unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a federal court. See Chapters 1.4(a) (Jurisdiction), 1.4(d) (Board decisions). For detailed guidance on practice before the Immigration Courts, consult Part II of this manual.

(d) Relationship to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002 and assumed most of the responsibilities of the now abolished Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). DHS is responsible for the enforcement of the immigration laws and the administration of immigration and naturalization benefits. In contrast, the Board and the Immigration Courts are responsible for the independent adjudication of cases under the immigration and nationality laws. Thus, DHS is entirely separate from the Department of Justice and is deemed a party when appearing before the Board or an Immigration Court.  See Chapters 1.4(a) (Jurisdiction), 1.4(d) (Board decisions), 1.4(f) (Department of Homeland Security).

(e) Relationship to the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was the component of the Department of Justice responsible for the enforcement of the immigration laws and the administration of immigration benefits. The role of the INS has now been assumed by the DHS. See subsection (d), above.

(f) Relationship to other EOIR Offices

     (1) Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) - The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) is an independent entity within EOIR.  OCAHO is responsible for hearings involving employer sanctions, and document fraud under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Board does not review decisions made by OCAHO.  Additional information regarding OCAHO, is available on the EOIR website.

     (2) Office of the General Counsel - The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for EOIR provides legal advice to all of EOIR, including the Board. OGC is responsible for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information from the Board. See Part I, Chapter 2 (FOIA), Appendix A (EOIR Directory). OGC is also responsible for receiving complaints about attorneys and accredited representatives and initiates disciplinary proceedings when appropriate. See Chapter 11 (Discipline). OGC is also responsible for administering EOIR’s Fraud Program, which was created to protect the integrity of immigration proceedings by reducing immigration fraud and abuse. Individuals wishing to report immigration fraud or abuse, or other irregular activity, should contact the EOIR Fraud Program. For contact information, see Appendix A (EOIR Directory).

      (3) Office of Policy

           (A) Communications and Legislative Affairs Division - The Communications and Legislative Affairs Division (CLAD) of EOIR’s Office of Policy is responsible for public relations for EOIR. CLAD serves as the Board’s liaison with the press. See Appendix A (EOIR Directory). CLAD houses EOIR’s Law Library and Immigration Research Center (LLIRC). This law library is maintained for the staff of EOIR and is open to the public. See Chapter 1.5(b) (Library). The LLIRC also maintains a “Virtual Law Library” that is accessible at EOIR’s website. The Virtual Law Library serves as a comprehensive repository of immigration-related law and information for use by attorneys and the general public. The site serves as a complement to the LLIRC located within the headquarters complex of EOIR.

           (B) Office of Legal Access Programs - The Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) of EOIR’s Office of Policy is responsible for improving access to representation for persons appearing before the Immigration Courts and the Board.  The Assistant Director for Policy, through OLAP, administers the Recognition and Accreditation Program, including the recognition of organizations and the accreditation of their representatives wishing to practice before the Immigration Courts, the Board, and/or DHS.  More information on OLAP is available on the EOIR website.

           (C) Legal Education and Research Services Division - The Legal Education and Research Services (LERS) Division of EOIR’s Office of Policy develops and coordinates headquarters and nationwide substantive legal training and professional development for new and experienced judges, attorneys, and others within EOIR who are directly involved in EOIR’s adjudicative functions.

(g) Relationship to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) - The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), previously referred to as the Administrative Appeals Unit (AAU), is a component of DHS. The AAO is responsible for adjudicating appeals from DHS denials of certain kinds of applications and petitions, including employment-based immigrant petitions and most nonimmigrant visa petitions. See 8 C.F.R. §§ 103.2, 103.3. The AAO is not a component of EOIR and should not be confused with EOIR or the Board. See Appendix B (Organizational Chart).

(h) Relationship to the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) - The Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) conducts civil trial and appellate litigation in the federal courts and represents the United States in civil suits brought against the federal government regarding the movement of citizens and aliens across U.S. borders. OIL is a separate and distinct component of the Department of Justice, located within the Civil Division, and should not be confused with EOIR or the Board.  See Appendix B (Organizational Chart).

Updated January 6, 2021