Official Website of the United States Department of Homeland Security
Share This PageShare This Page PrintPrint

Precedent Decisions

"Precedent decisions" are administrative decisions of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and the Attorney General, which are selected and designated as precedent by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the BIA, and the Attorney General, respectively.  The Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) publishes precedent decisions in bound volumes entitled "Administrative Decisions Under Immigration and Nationality Laws of the United States." 

Precedent decisions are legally binding on the DHS components responsible for enforcing immigration laws in all proceedings involving the same issue or issues. However, precedent decisions may be modified or overruled by:

  • The Attorney General
  • Federal Courts
  • Later precedent decisions
  • Changes in the law

The AAO and the BIA are not Federal courts, but their decisions are subject to judicial review in the Federal courts.  Federal courts give greater deference to precedent decisions as well as to unpublished decisions in which the same legal reasoning of a precedent decision was followed. 

The AAO adjudicates appeals under authority delegated to the Director of USCIS by the Secretary of DHS.  Prior to the AAO's formation in 1983, denied applications and petitions were appealed to one of four regional commissioners.  For more information on the AAO, please visit the AAO's About Us page.

The BIA is part of EOIR - a separate federal agency that is a component of the Department of Justice. The BIA has jurisdiction to hear appeals from certain decisions rendered by Immigration Judges and by DHS component offices in a wide variety of proceedings. 

You can view AAO and BIA precendent decisions online at the EOIR Virtual Law Library.  If you are looking for information regarding the AAO's non-precedent decisions, click here.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 09/10/2013