AAO Decisions

The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) generally issues our appellate decisions as non-precedent decisions, which apply existing law and policy to the facts of a given case. After review by the Attorney General, we may also issue precedent decisions to provide guidance to adjudicators and the public on the proper interpretation and administration of immigration law and policy. Additionally, USCIS may “adopt” a non-precedent decision to provide policy guidance to USCIS employees in making determinations on applications and petitions for immigration benefits.

Non-Precedent Decisions

Non-precedent decisions apply existing law and policy to the facts of an individual case. These decisions are binding on the parties involved in the case, but do not create or modify USCIS policy or practice. The AAO does not announce new interpretations of law or establish agency policy through non-precedent decisions. As a result, non-precedent decisions do not provide a basis for applying new or alternative interpretations of law or policy.

Search our Non-Precedent Decisions.

Precedent Decisions

An AAO decision may be designated as a “precedent decision” by the joint approval of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Attorney General.

Precedent decisions are legally binding on the DHS components responsible for enforcing immigration laws in all proceedings involving the same issues. In addition, absent any controlling judicial precedent to the contrary, federal courts give greater deference to AAO precedent decisions, as well as to non-precedent and adopted decisions that follow the same legal reasoning of a precedent decision.

The U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review publishes AAO precedent decisions in bound volumes entitled Administrative Decisions Under Immigration and Nationality Laws of the United States, as well as on its DHS/AAO/INS Decisions webpage.

Adopted AAO Decisions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) occasionally “adopts” an AAO non-precedent decision to provide policy guidance for USCIS personnel.

An adopted AAO decision is identified by a unique citation format as well as by a USCIS cover memorandum announcing its designation as an adopted decision.

Current adopted AAO decisions are listed below and on the Policy Memoranda page.

Previous adopted decisions, now superseded by USCIS policy or by designation of the adopted decision as a precedent decision, are listed below:


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