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Administrative Law Research: Immigration Concentration Class Site

Federal Agency Guidance

Many federal agencies have the power to issue guidance documents such as advisory opinions, letters, manuals, etc. to provide courts, attorneys, and the public with guidance. In general, agency guidance documents provide information about:

  1. How an agency interprets and enforces laws and regulations
  2. An agency's operating procedures

Sometimes the guidance is binding on the agency and/or parties to cases and sometimes not, so it is always a good idea to check.

You can usually find them on the relevant agency's website and some are available on commercial systems such as Westlaw and Lexis.

Below are some examples of immigration agency guidance documents.

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)

There are a number of sources of guidance for matters handled by the three components of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR): Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ), and Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO).

EOIR Policy Manual

According to the website, it "highlights the processes involved in the agency’s mission to adjudicate immigration cases by fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly interpreting and administering the Nation’s immigration laws." It describes procedures and requirements for practice before the BIA, OCIJ, and OCAHO.

It is a large manual that contains the manuals of the BIA, OCIJ, and OCAHO.

It contains the following:

It is available on the EOIR website

Operating Policies and Procedures Memoranda

The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) issues memoranda on a broad variety of issues relating to the jurisdiction of immigration courts in adjudicating immigration-related matters, including memoranda on attorney discipline, asylum request processing, asylum grants based on coercive population control efforts and other matters. The current memoranda which remain in effect were issued before 2018.

It is part of the EOIR Policy Manual and is available on the EOIR website in part IV.

Immigration Court Practice Manual 

It contains procedures, requirements, and recommendations for practice before the immigration courts. It is binding on parties who appear before the immigration courts unless otherwise directed by an immigration judge in a particular case.

It is part of the EOIR Policy Manual and is available on the EOIR websiteWestlaw, and Lexis.

Immigration Judge Benchbook

Though no longer updated, it contains the materials that immigration judges use to conduct proceedings and to carry out their decision-making responsibilities. It complements both the Immigration Court Practice Manual and the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual.

It is part of the EOIR Policy Manual and is available on the EOIR website and Westlaw.

Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual 

According to the website, it "outlines the processes and suggestions for practice before the BIA, the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. The requirements contained in the Practice Manual are binding on all parties who appear before the BIA."

 It is part of the EOIR Policy Manual and is available on the EIOR website and Westlaw.

Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer Practice Manual

According to the website, it "provides an outline of procedures and recommendations regarding practice before OCAHO in cases arising under three specific provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)."

It is part of the EOIR Policy Manual and is available on the EOIR website.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The USCIS Policy Manual and USCIS policy memoranda contain the official policies of USCIS and assist immigration officers in rendering decisions.

USCIS Policy Manual

According to the website, it is "the agency’s centralized online repository for USCIS’ immigration policies. The USCIS Policy Manual will ultimately replace the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM), the USCIS Immigration Policy Memoranda site, and other policy repositories."

It is available on the USCIS website.

USCIS Policy Memoranda

According to the website, it "provides access to various policy and procedural memoranda, which guides USCIS adjudicators as they process applications and petitions for immigration benefits while still protecting national security. These policy memoranda are to be followed by USCIS officers in the performance of their duties but do not remove their discretion in making adjudicatory decisions. The policy memoranda do not create any substantive or procedural rights or benefits that are legally enforceable by any party against the United States, or its agencies or officers or any other person."

They are available from the USCIS website.

Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) Practice Manual 

It describes rules, procedures, and recommendations for appearing before the AAO.

It is available on the USCIS website.

Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM)

It was previously used by USCIS to disseminate policies and procedures to the adjudicators involved with administering immigration benefits. According to a USCIS announcement, the AFM website has been taken down and all content has been moved to the USCIS Policy Manual.

Office of the General Counsel (Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS))

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and its Office of the General Counsel were abolished in 2003. During its existence, the Office of the General Counsel issued policy memoranda about issues such as women's asylum claims, adjudication of children's asylum claims, HIV infection and relief from deportation, etc.

These memoranda were authoritative and not binding on the INS. Since the responsibilities of the INS were transferred to successor agencies DHS and USCIS, the memoranda remain authoritative.

They are available from Lexis.