\ afm \ Adjudicator's Field Manual \ Chapter 12 Attorneys and Other Representatives. \ 12.6 Role of USCIS District Directors in the Board of Immigration Appeals Recognition and Accreditation Process.
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12.6 Role of USCIS District Directors in the Board of Immigration Appeals Recognition and Accreditation Process.
(a) Establishing a Recognition and Accreditation Point-of-Contact (POC) or Team.
(1) Identify a single recognition and accreditation POC or designate several operational staff members in each district office to be part of a recognition and accreditation team to handle these requests.
(2) Each district office should identify a recognition and accreditation POC or team comprised of several operational staff members from its operational staff (e.g., Field Office Director, Community Relations Officer, Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Officer, officer from the Office of Security and Integrity (OSI)) who is most appropriate for that particular office. The recognition and accreditation POC or team should be familiar with the community-based organizations in the district and have worked with local BIA recognized organizations.
Note: To the extent possible, a recognition and accreditation team should include a Community Relations Officer and an FDNS officer.
(b) Ensuring Timely Receipt of Requests for USCIS Recommendation.
(1) Notify field offices that all such requests should be forwarded to the district office.
(2) Expedite mailroom processing to ensure that the recognition and accreditation POC or team receives all Forms EOIR-31 and applications for accreditation of representative(s) well before the response period expires, thirty days after USCIS receives each Form EOIR 31.
(3) Date stamp all Forms EOIR-31 and applications for accreditation of representative(s) on the date they arrive at the district office to ensure that the recognition and accreditation POC or team knows when the 30-day period will expire.
(c) Reviewing Requests for USCIS Recommendation.
(1) Upon receiving a request, if it is unlikely the office will be able to respond within 30 days, the recognition and accreditation POC or team should immediately request an appropriate extension through the BIA Recognition and Accreditation Coordinator so that the BIA is aware that a response from USCIS will be forthcoming. One to two weeks after a request for an extension is submitted, the POC or a team member should contact the BIA Recognition and Accreditation Coordinator to determine whether he or she granted the extension. The program coordinator's telephone number is (703) 305-9029.
(2) The recognition and accreditation POC or team should review the organization or individual's qualifications to provide immigration services.
Note: The USCIS Checklist: Request for BIA Recognition and Accreditation (see Appendix 12-1) and the USCIS Worksheet: Requests for Recognition and Accreditation Processing and Procedures (see Appendix 12-2) may be used as a resource to help organize requests for recognition and accreditation, but use of the checklist and worksheet is not required.
In evaluating the qualifications of an organization, the team should review relevant information, which may include:
- Form EOIR-31;
- Evidence of non-profit status;
- Evidence of what type of services the organization intends to provide;
- Source of the organization's funding;
- Evidence of knowledge, information, and experience in immigration law and procedure;
- Proposed fee structure for services;
- Any additional information, including IBIS checks, review of agency databases including SCCLAIMS, site visits, personal interviews of organization officials, and references; and
- Evidence that the organization or individual is being investigated or prosecuted in a civil or criminal matter for violations relevant to the EOIR-31 (e.g., consumer fraud, unauthorized practice of law, etc.).
In evaluating the qualifications of an individual for whom a recognized organization has filed a request to be accredited as a representative, the recognition and accreditation POC or team should review relevant information, which may include:
- Request for accreditation of representative submitted by recognized organization;
- Letters of recommendation, awards, training certificates, etc.;
- Evidence of experience and knowledge of immigration and naturalization law and procedure;
- Evidence of compensation agreement with the recognized organization;
- Evidence of plan for supervision of accredited representative by recognized organization;
- Any additional information regarding the individual's relationship with the recognized organization, qualifications, and good moral character, including: site visits, personal interviews of organization officials, and references; and
- Evidence that the organization or individual is being investigated or prosecuted in a civil or criminal matter for violations relevant to the request (e.g., consumer fraud, unauthorized practice of law, etc.).
(3) The recognition and accreditation POC or team should seek input from the local ICE office, district Community Relations Officer and the Field Office Director, FDNS officers, supervisory and senior immigration services officers, and USCIS counsel in the jurisdiction where the organization is located.
(4) If the recognition and accreditation POC or team and other USCIS staff are not familiar with the organization or individual, the District or Field Office Director should contact the organization or individual practitioner to assess the strength of the application.
(5) The recognition and accreditation POC or team should conduct checks of media reports, public databases, and other sources to obtain additional information about the organization and individuals seeking accredited representative status.
(6) The recognition and accreditation POC or team should ask FDNS to vet individuals seeking accreditation and any organizations seeking recognition that have not previously been fully vetted through USCIS fraud databases, such as the FDNS data system. If necessary, the POC or team should ask ICE to conduct further background checks.
(7) The recognition and accreditation POC or team should check with the state bar (with the assistance of local USCIS counsel where possible) and other appropriate state agencies, the local FDNS unit, EOIR Disciplinary Counsel (full accreditation requests only), and USCIS Disciplinary Counsel to determine whether there have been any complaints about the organization or individual(s) applying for recognition or accreditation status. The EOIR Office of General Counsel can be contacted at (703) 305-0470.
(d) Responding to Requests for USCIS Recommendation.
(1) If the district office recommends approval, the District Director should submit a letter to the BIA with supporting evidence, if available (see Appendix 12-3). A copy of all documents filed with the BIA must be served on the organization. Personal information identifying customers or stakeholders should be redacted as required by the Privacy Act and DHS policy.
(2) If the district office recommends against approval, a letter should be submitted to the BIA with supporting evidence, if available (see Appendix 12-4). Supporting evidence is not required, but may include affidavits or sworn statements by adjudicators, investigators, clients of the applicant representative; criminal history reports; G-28s; investigation results, etc. Note: USCIS may not base a negative recommendation on information that it is unwilling or unable to release to the BIA. A copy of all documents filed with the BIA must be served on the organization. Personal information identifying USCIS officers, customers, or other stakeholders should be redacted as required by the Privacy Act and DHS policy.
(3) The recognition and accreditation POC or team should track all requests for recognition, including the date the Form EOIR-31 is received, due dates for response, date on which a request for additional time in which to submit the recommendation is filed with the BIA, the due date after an extension is granted by the BIA, the date that the recommendation is submitted to the BIA by USCIS or ICE, and the date and disposition by the BIA.
(4) The recognition and accreditation POC or team should retain copies of the all documentation related to the Form EOIR-31 and application(s) for accreditation of representatives.
(e) After Submitting Recommendation to BIA.
The recognition and accreditation POC or team should retain all responses from the BIA, and inform the local USCIS counsel, Field Office Director, and District Director of the BIA decision on all EOIR-31 forms and application(s) for accreditation of representative(s).
(f) Withdrawal of BIA Recognition or Accreditation.
If a USCIS officer believes that an organization's recognition should be revoked, he or she should report the concerns through the supervisory chain of command to the District Director. The District Director has authority to conduct an investigation and, if warranted, may submit a written request to the BIA requesting that the organization's recognition be withdrawn. The filing must include the results of the investigation of the recognized organization. The request must be filed with the BIA recognition and accreditation coordinator and a copy must be served on the organization. An immigration judge will hold a hearing and forward all evidence, along with his or her recommendation, to the BIA. USCIS, ICE, and the organization will have the opportunity to engage in an oral argument before the BIA, after which the BIA will render a decision.
(g) Summaries of BIA Decisions Relating to the Recognition and Accreditation Process.
Matter of Elly Velez Pamatong (Interim Decision #2743 - November 1979)
- Summary: A graduate of the University of Philippines Law Program, who was considered a refugee by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, applied for permission to represent individuals before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 19 of the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, his application was denied because he was not an attorney within the meaning of 8 CFR 292.1, or fit under the categories listed in that provision.
- Full Text of Decision
Matter of American Paralegal Academy, Inc. (Interim Decision #3012 - April 1986)
- Summary: Nominal charges are not defined in terms of specific dollar amounts, but have been interpreted to mean a very small quantity or something existing in name only as distinguished from something real or actual. An applicant for BIA recognition, whose charges for services exceed amounts which can be construed as nominal may not rely upon the notion that its fees are substantially less than those charged by law firms, or that its fees are one of the means by which it is able to fund itself.
- Full Text of Decision
Matter of Lutheran Ministries of Florida (Interim Decision #3132 - February 1990)
- Summary: An application for BIA recognition should include detailed information as to how the organization will operate and by whom it will be staffed, as well as other evidence regarding the organization's qualifications, such as resumes for the staff members and information as to the availability of legal resource materials, training programs in immigration law and procedure, and supervised employment for the staff.
- Full Text of Decision
Matter of Baptist Educational Center (Interim Decision #3210 - September 1993)
- Summary: During proceedings to withdraw an organization's recognized status, if an organization wishes to retain its recognized status, it must demonstrate by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence that it continues to satisfy the requirements for recognition.
- Full Text of Decision
In re Chaplain Services, Inc. (Interim Decision #3292 - July 1996)
- Summary: In an application for recognition, an applicant must respond to and successfully rebut an adverse recommendation made by the district director, even when such recommendation has been made in a prior recognition proceeding involving the applicant. In this case, the applicant's request for recognition was denied because, among others, applicant failed to rebut allegations made by the district director in prior recognition proceedings that the applicant's organization provided clients with misinformation; that the applicant improperly submitted Notices of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative (Forms G-28) on behalf of a purportedly associated attorney who never performed services; that the applicant's clients had been charged excessive amounts for services in spite of the applicant's fee list which reflects nominal charges; and that the member of the applicant's staff upon whose expertise the applicant relies has been the subject of complaints for the unauthorized practice f law.
- Full Text of Decision
Matter of EAC Inc., Request for Recognition (Interim Decision #3614 - July 2008)
- Summary: The process of recognition is designed to evaluate the qualifications of only those nonprofit organizations that provide knowledgeable legal assistance to low-income aliens in matters involving immigration law and procedure. In order to establish that it has adequate knowledge of immigration law and procedure, an organization seeking recognition must have sufficient access to legal resources, which may include electronic or internet access, as well as resources provided by a law library. An organization seeking recognition must show that it has either a local attorney who is on the staff, offering pro bono services, or providing consultation under a formal arrangement; a fully accredited representative; or a partially accredited representative with access to additional expertise. A recognized organization that does not offer a full range of immigration legal services or whose staff is not sufficiently experienced to handle more complex immigration issues must have the ability to discern when it should direct aliens to seek other legal assistance.
- Full Text of Decision
Matter of EAC Inc., Request for Accreditation (Interim Decision #3615 - July 2008)
- Summary: All accredited representatives on the staff of a recognized organization must have a broad knowledge of immigration law and procedure, even if the organization only intends to provide limited services through one or more partially accredited representatives. In order to show that a proposed accredited representative has the broad knowledge and experience in immigration law and procedure required by 8 CFR § 1292.2(d) (2008), a recognized organization should submit the individual's resume, letters of recommendation, and evidence of immigration training completed, including detailed descriptions of the topics addressed.
- Full Text of Decision