When is an Immigration Judge’s Decision a Done Deal?

One of the most common inquires people have after attending their individual or merits hearing in Immigration Court is whether the Immigration Judge’s (“IJ”) decision is final or not. In the event you are not satisfied with the IJ’s decision, you may have the ability to contest the finality of the decision. This article will provide insight as to how IJ’s provide their decision, the procedure in pursuing an appeal, and how to determine when it is too late to seek a change in the IJ’s decision.

The IJ will usually render their decision on the day you have your individual or merits hearing. Such decision is based on testimonies, witness presentations, and any other relevant evidence presented before the IJ. In most cases, the IJ will issue an oral decision unless he/she decides to do so in writing. If the IJ renders their decision out loud in court, you will receive a summary of the decision by mail setting forth the reasons for the IJ’s decision. It is critical that you provide the immigration court a reliable address to mail the summary of the decision considering such document is necessary to appeal the decision.

Generally, an IJ’s decision is final when one of two things take place: (1) the non-citizen in proceedings “waives their ability appeal” or (2) the time period to make an appeal has lapsed. After the IJ renders his/her decision in open court, you will then be asked whether you waive your ability to appeal or whether you accept the IJ’s decision as final. However, it is important to note that you do not have to decide to appeal the IJ’s decision in that exact moment. You may have the option to reserve your appeal. Reserving the appeal would essentially grant you the ability appeal the IJ’s decision within thirty days of when the decision was rendered. The thirty-day time frame also applies when the IJ does not give his decision orally but instead mails you the written decision.

Appeals are normally filed with the Board of Immigration Appeals (“B.I.A.”). The proper form to file for an appeal of the IJ’s decision is called a Notice of Appeal from a Decision of an Immigration Judge, Form EOIR-26. If you have an attorney, you must also submit a form called Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative Before the Board of Immigration Appeals, Form EOIR-27. One important caveat to remember is the thirty-day time period available to appeal from when the IJ’s decision was rendered. The BIA will not accept late filings. Thus, if the time period has elapsed then it is too late to seek a change in the IJ’s decision and arrangements for your deportation will likely follow.

Keep in mind that an appeal will also cost additional money in legal fees and so forth. Also, if you are already in a detention center, appealing the IJ’s decision would not release you from the detention. You would remain detained during the appeal process. Depending on your reasons and the advice provided by your legal counsel, it is important to weight all the relevant factors before appealing the IJ’s decision. Taking the proper steps in filing an appeal may be complex for individuals with little experience in Immigration law.  However, the well-seasoned Immigration attorneys at Theus Law Offices are available to ease the process.

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