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USCIS Issues Policy Memo on Initial Field Review of AAO Appeals


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memorandum on November 4, 2015, on initial field review of appeals to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). The memo provides guidance to USCIS employees on the proper processing of such appeals.

Field offices include USCIS field and overseas offices, service centers, and the National Benefits Center. The memo notes that appeals to the AAO are filed on Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion. USCIS first conducts an intake procedure to ensure the appeal is complete and the agency has collected any required filing fees. After intake, the USCIS field office that made the unfavorable decision conducts an “initial field review” of the appeal. If the field office does not take favorable action, it forwards the appeal to the AAO for appellate review without issuing a new decision.

The memo notes that the purpose of initial field review is “to promote the efficient review of administrative appeals of field office decisions.” The affected party may submit a brief and/or additional evidence with the appeal. The appeal process is “undermined” if initial field review is not timely or if the appeal is inappropriately terminated, the memo states. Therefore, the memo provides additional guidance on the timeliness and scope of initial field review.

Among other things, the memo states that the regulations do not require the field office to complete initial field review within 45 days of receipt, but USCIS is adopting 45 days as the agency’s processing goal.

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