Recognition and Accreditation Program
Frequently Asked Questions
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are being provided as a public service and do not constitute legal advice or supersede statute, regulations, or case law. For more detailed information on requirements, interested parties should consult federal regulations (particularly 8 C.F.R. § 1292). 81 Fed. Reg. 92346 (Dec. 19, 2016).
The Recognition and Accreditation (R&A) Program began over 60 years ago to increase the availability of competent legal representation for low-income and indigent persons in immigration proceedings. The Program allows certain individuals – specifically, non-attorney employees and volunteers of qualifying non-profit organizations – to practice immigration law before the Federal government.
As of August 2023, the Program consists of roughly 850 recognized organizations and 2,290 accredited representatives providing immigration legal services across the United States.
Office of Legal Access Programs
Executive Office for Immigration Review
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2400
Falls Church, VA 22041
Phone Number: (703) 305-9029
Fax Number: (703) 305-9884
This Q&A will give you a general introduction, but you can learn about our program on our main page and find links to helpful resources (e.g., program forms, rosters of current Recognized Organizations and Accredited Representatives, and press releases).
To find an “Accredited Representative” to help you with your immigration case, you can contact a nonprofit organization that is a “Recognized Organization” under the R&A Program. A list of Recognized Organizations can be found here: Recognition and Accreditation (R&A) Roster Reports. These lists, which are also called “rosters,” include the names and addresses of active Recognized Organizations and the names of their staff who are Accredited Representatives who can assist you.
The rosters also identify what kind of legal assistance each Accredited Representative may provide. Accredited Representatives who have “partial accreditation” are marked “DHS only” next to their name, which means that the Representative can represent clients only before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Those Representatives can help you with your immigration case if it is before USCIS, such as immigration benefits or citizenship/naturalization.
Accredited Representatives who have “full accreditation” may still represent clients before USCIS, but they may also represent clients who are in immigration proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) (which includes the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)). Representatives who do not have “DHS only” next to their name are fully accredited, and they may assist clients with cases before USCIS and also represent them in immigration court or on immigration appeal. If you are seeking assistance on a case before EOIR, such as before an Immigration Judge in an immigration court, you should look for a Representative who does not have “DHS only” next to their name.
An “authorized officer” serves as the Recognized Organization’s point of contact when the organization communicates with EOIR on all recognition and accreditation matters. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(a)(5). The authorized officer has the authority to speak and act on behalf of the organization in matters related to the R&A Program. An authorized officer need not be the highest ranking person in the organization but must be someone who is familiar with the organization’s immigration services and is accessible to communicate with the R&A Program when needed. Examples of commonly appointed designated authorized officers are: Executive Directors, Legal Directors, Board Members, and Accredited Representatives.
To learn more, you may read the regulations governing the authorized officer found at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(a)(5).
Yes. An organization may have more than one authorized officer. There are circumstances in which designating additional authorized officers may be beneficial to an organization and to EOIR by reducing the potential for disruption to communications.
However, when there is more than one authorized officer, they serve jointly and equally as points of contact for recognition and accreditation matters. Any submission to or communication with EOIR should be copied to all authorized officers. In turn, EOIR will copy all authorized officers when responding to communications from a Recognized Organization.
An organization identifies its authorized officer or officers at the time of initial application for recognition. If an organization would like to later change, add, or remove authorized officers, it can do so by emailing the following information to R-A-Info@usdoj.gov:
- the individual's name, title within the organization, and email address;
- the organization’s street address and phone number; and
- an updated organizational chart that clearly identifies the authorized officer’s role in the organization.
The organization decides how many authorized officers it will have, and each organization should make that decision based on what makes the most sense for its operational and communication structure.
Note, however, that for organizations with extension offices, the organization may not simply designate an authorized officer at each extension office. The authorized officer is the point of contact for the entire organization and not a single piece of it. Authorized officers in every individual component of the organization create uncertainty whether there is a parent organization or principal office in charge, which is required by the regulations. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.15. If an organization feels that an authorized officer is needed at each of its extension offices, the organization should consider, and may be required to, seek separate recognition for each office.
The authorized officer plays an important role, acting as liaison between the organization and the R&A Program. The authorized officer submits the applications for recognition on behalf of the organization and for accreditation on behalf of the organization’s representatives. In this role, the authorized officer is charged with reviewing and affirming the truth of all information and supporting documents provided within the applications for recognition and/or accreditation. For example, the authorized officer is required to ensure that:
- The application forms are completed correctly, signed, and dated;
- All documents required by the regulations and form instructions are included with the application(s);
- All letters of recommendation have been signed;
- Resumes for staff attorneys and technical legal support sources are updated and include the individual’s relevant immigration experience; and
- For accreditation applications, an email address is submitted at which the proposed representative may be contacted directly.
The authorized officer also has the duty to report to EOIR, promptly and in writing, any material changes in the organization or to the status of its Accredited Representatives, including changes to:
- The organization’s name, mailing address, phone number, web address, email address, structure, or non-profit or federal tax-exempt status;
- The identity or designation of the authorized officer(s); and
- The status of an Accredited Representative with the organization, including, but not limited to:
- the date that an Accredited Representative left the organization;
- whether the organization has any additional currently accredited representatives;
- any information about the individual’s eligibility for future accreditation, including concerns related to character and fitness; or
- a name change.
See 8 C.F.R. §1292.14(a). Any submission to or communication with EOIR must copy all the authorized officers.
Any changes to the authorized officer(s) at an organization must be reported in writing to EOIR by a current authorized officer, copying all other authorized officers, if applicable. A sole authorized officer for an organization that is departing should inform EOIR in writing of the new authorized officer prior to departure. If the sole designated officer departed the organization prior to notifying EOIR of the next authorized officer, the organization’s Executive Director should notify EOIR in writing of the new authorized officer.
If the sole authorized officer for an organization will be out of the office for extended leave (e.g., on vacation, sabbatical, or medical leave), the authorized officer should notify EOIR in writing prior to the planned departure with the name and contact information for a temporary replacement. EOIR encourages organizations to submit all written communications pertinent to the R&A Program via email to R-A-Info@usdoj.gov.
Yes, an Accredited Representative may also be an authorized officer. For example, it is not uncommon in smaller organizations for the authorized officer to also be an accredited representative. An Accredited Representative who assumes the role of an authorized officer must be at a sufficient level of authority within the organization to act on its behalf by completing applications and certifying the truth of the contents of the applications. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(a)(5).
Please note: In the event an authorized officer is an Accredited Representative or a proposed representative, this same individual may complete and sign both declarations as an authorized officer and proposed representative in Part 3 and Part 4 of Form EOIR-31A. Both Parts 3 and 4 must be signed and completed; it is not enough to sign just one declaration, even if the authorized officer and Accredited Representative are the same person. A completed Form EOIR-31A, or application for accreditation, requires both declarations be signed.
DOJ Recognized Organizations and Accredited Representatives must adhere to certain eligibility criteria and professional conduct rules. The following regulations contain a non-exhaustive list of these criteria and rules:
|Professional Conduct Rules
|8 C.F.R. § 1292.11
|8 C.F.R. § 1003.110(b)
|8 C.F.R. § 1292.12
|8 C.F.R. § 1003.102
If you believe either a Recognized Organization or an Accredited Representative has engaged in misconduct, you should contact the entities listed below, depending on whether the alleged misconduct occurred before DHS or before EOIR and whether alleged fraud was involved. Please include as much information and supporting documentation as possible with any complaint that you submit to either DHS or EOIR.
For concerns about practice before DHS, send an email to:
For concerns about practice before EOIR, submit Form EOIR-44 and supporting documents to:
United States Department of Justice
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Office of the General Counsel
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2600
Falls Church, VA 22041
Attn: Disciplinary Counsel
For concerns about possible fraud, contact the EOIR Fraud and Abuse Prevention Program at:
See EOIR’s webpage on submitting feedback or complaints for more information.
If you believe that a DOJ Recognized Organization or Accredited Representative no longer qualifies for recognition or accreditation, or if you have other concerns about the conduct of a DOJ Recognized Organization and/or Accredited Representative, you may email the R&A Program at: R-A-Info@usdoj.gov.
Yes. An organization should use Form EOIR-31 to apply for recognition and Form EOIR-31A to apply for accreditation of a representative.
The R&A Program's website contains the latest forms.
No, there is no fee to apply for recognition or accreditation. If you are approached by someone claiming there is a fee to apply for recognition or accreditation, please alert the R&A Program.
Organizations should send their complete, original applications and supporting documentation by email to the R&A Program. Email submissions are strongly preferred, but applicants may instead submit mailed applications to the mailing address.
EOIR accepts digital and electronic signatures on all applications submitted through the R&A Program, regardless of method of submission. The resulting digital or electronic signature must clearly display the signer’s name or a reproduction of the signer’s handwritten signature. The signature should also include a printed (i.e., handwritten in print or typed) version of the signer’s name below or adjacent to the signature if it is not provided in the digital or electronic signature itself. EOIR will accept electronically reproduced copies of documents containing digital, electronic, or “wet” signatures. EOIR will also continue to accept original documents containing wet signatures. Submitters must maintain original copies of all documents submitted by email and be prepared to produce them for EOIR upon the agency’s request.
An organization must serve, by email, exact copies of the application and any supplemental information on the appropriate DHS USCIS District Office. If the organization has extension offices and the principal and extension office(s) are located in more than one USCIS district, the organization must send an exact copy of the form and its attachments to each applicable USCIS District Office. The organization must also provide EOIR with proof of service on the correct USCIS District Office(s). The organization may serve all USCIS District Offices by copying these offices in the organization’s email to the R&A Program (R-A-Info@usdoj.gov).
In this context, a “proof of service” (or a “certificate of service”) is an organization’s formal guarantee that it has sent an exact copy of its submission by email to the appropriate USCIS District Office(s). USCIS has the same obligation to the organization when it provides EOIR any documentation in response to the organization’s application. Every submission to the R&A Program related to an application for recognition or accreditation, whether an application, supporting documentation, recommendation, extension request, response to a recommendation, or other formal submission, must also contain a proof of service to the appropriate USCIS District Office(s). However, an organization is not required to serve USCIS in routine correspondence with EOIR, such as reporting changes as required under 8 C.F.R. § 1292.14(a).
The proof of service is located in Part 9 of the recognition application, Form EOIR-31, and Part 5 of the accreditation application, Form EOIR-31A. The organization’s authorized officer must ensure that these sections are completed, dated, and signed, indicating which USCIS District Office(s) has been served.
Below is an example of a properly completed proof of service.
An organization must email a copy of its complete application packet to the USCIS District Director in the jurisdiction where the organization’s headquarters is located and to the USCIS District Office(s) where immigration legal services will be rendered, if that is a different USCIS District. For example, if an organization’s headquarters is in Dallas, TX, but the immigration legal services office is in San Antonio, TX, the organization must email the complete application packet to both the Dallas District Office and the San Antonio District Office. Organizations with extension offices must serve both the USCIS District Office of its principal or parent location and the USCIS District Office corresponding to the zip code of its extension office(s).
An organization that submits an application to the R&A Program via email may complete service by copying the appropriate USCIS District Office(s) on the same email. Even if the organization includes USCIS on the email sent to the R&A Program, the organization must still complete the proof of service sections in Forms EOIR-31 and EOIR-31A.
Each District Director’s email address can be found on USCIS’s webpage. Enter the organization’s zip code into the USCIS District Office Finder at the bottom of the page. The tool will provide the email address where the application package and documentation must be sent. [See example below]
If the organization provides immigration legal services in more than one office, the organization should enter its different zip codes to confirm if it should serve more than one USCIS District Office. Organizations should submit an electronic copy of the application packet to the email address for the appropriate USCIS District Office(s) and direct the email to the attention of the District Director(s). Organizations should not send a copy of the application packet via postal mail in addition to the email.
An organization must provide USCIS a copy of the application it submitted to EOIR. When USCIS receives the application, USCIS has 30 days to review it and respond to EOIR with a recommendation. If USCIS submits an unfavorable recommendation, the organization has 30 days from receipt of the unfavorable recommendation to respond. Both USCIS and the organization can request an extension of time to submit a recommendation or response, though neither extension is automatic. If an organization would like to request an extension of time, an organization may email the R&A Program at R-A-Info@usdoj.gov.
The existing deadline stands unless EOIR grants the extension. If EOIR grants an extension, it is generally for an additional 30 days. Longer periods may be requested, but EOIR will not grant a longer extension request unless the reason is persuasive.
When EOIR receives an application for recognition or accreditation, it thoroughly reviews all documentation in the application packet, as well as the recommendation letter from USCIS, if any, and issues a written determination on each application. If more information is needed prior to issuing a determination, a representative from the R&A Program will reach out to the authorized officer requesting the information. EOIR sends the determination letter electronically to the organization and relevant USCIS District Office(s). If EOIR approves an application, the name(s) of the Recognized Organization and/or Accredited Representative(s) will be added to the R&A Rosters.
USCIS is a valued partner in EOIR’s R&A process. The regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.13(b) allow USCIS 30 days from service of an organization’s application to submit a recommendation to EOIR. USCIS may recommend approval or disapproval of an R&A application. A USCIS recommendation, either for or against approval, is not the final determination on a pending R&A application. Rather, EOIR will take the recommendation into account but make an independent decision based on the requirements of the regulation.
In the case of an unfavorable recommendation, an organization has 30 days from receipt of the recommendation to submit a response to EOIR at R-A-Info@usdoj.gov. The organization must also submit proof of service of the response on the USCIS District Office that provided the recommendation. The organization may do this by copying the USCIS District Office on the email sent to EOIR with its response. Before making a final determination on the application, EOIR will examine the unfavorable recommendation and consider whether the organization’s response addresses the points raised by USCIS.
If an application is disapproved by EOIR, the organization has three options: (1) accept the decision, (2) request reconsideration of the disapproval decision, or (3) file a completely new application with all the necessary information.
If an organization believes that EOIR has made an error in disapproving an application for recognition or accreditation, or in terminating recognition or accreditation, the organization may request that EOIR reconsider the decision. 8 C.F.R. §§ 1292.13(e), 1292.16(f), 1292.17(d). The request should be emailed to the R&A Program within 30 days of the date on the disapproval or termination letter. The organization should not submit any new material with the request for reconsideration. Rather, the request should point out the specific factual and/or legal error(s) the organization believes EOIR has made and contain an explanation, as necessary. Matter of Bay Area Legal Services, Inc., 27 I&N Dec. 837 (DIR 2020).
If the organization would like to submit new information, it should do so with a new application. EOIR will not consider new information submitted with a request for reconsideration. Where the EOIR determination disapproves the renewal of an organization’s recognition or a representative’s accreditation, the recognition or accreditation will remain valid pending the reconsideration process.
An organization may request administrative review if EOIR (1) either disapproved an application for initial recognition or accreditation, disapproved an application for renewal of recognition or accreditation, or terminated recognition or accreditation; and (2) denied the organization’s request for reconsideration. The request must be sent either by email to the R&A Program or by mail or shipping service to the R&A Program mailing address, in writing, and postmarked within 10 days of the date of the letter denying reconsideration. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.18(a)(1).
EOIR will accept digital and electronic signatures on all applications submitted through the R&A Program, regardless of method of submission to EOIR. The resulting digital or electronic signature must clearly display the signer’s name or a reproduction of the signer’s handwritten signature. The signature should also include a printed (i.e., handwritten in print or typed) version of the signer’s name below or adjacent to the signature if it is not provided in the digital or electronic signature itself. EOIR will accept electronically reproduced copies of documents containing digital, electronic, or “wet” signatures. EOIR will also continue to accept original documents containing wet signatures. Submitters must maintain original copies of all documents submitted by email and be prepared to produce them for EOIR upon the agency’s request.
Upon receipt, the request for administrative review will be forwarded to EOIR’s Office of the Director. The EOIR Director or any officer within EOIR whom the Director delegates other than the Assistant Director for Policy (or the Assistant Director for Policy’s delegate) will review the application. The organization should not submit any new material with the request for administrative review. Rather, the request should point out any specific factual and/or legal error(s) the organization believes the Assistant Director for Policy (or the Assistant Director for Policy’s delegate) has made and contain an explanation, as necessary. The EOIR Director will not consider new information submitted with a request for administrative review but may request additional filings from the organization, in the Director’s discretion. Where the EOIR denial of reconsideration involves the renewal of an organization’s recognition or a representative’s accreditation, the recognition or accreditation will remain valid pending the administrative review process.
The R&A Program and its participating organizations share a goal to build capacity of representation. To that end, we look forward to receiving complete applications that we can approve. Here are best practices and common deficiencies we have noticed to help organizations submit complete applications:
- Submit your application electronically to R-A-Info@usdoj.gov.
- Do not include entire PowerPoint presentations or instructional manuals as proof of attendance at a training. Please review carefully what constitutes an acceptable verifiable record. If an agenda or list of topics was not provided by the training instructor, include a list of topics covered in the training.
- Ensure that each application includes a valid phone number and email address for an authorized officer, and that the authorized officer designation is accurate. If an organization has more than one authorized officer, make sure all are included on the email communications.
- If you are sending motions or other work product that contain clients’ personally identifiable information, ensure that this information is redacted in full before sending the documentation to EOIR.
- Do not send original and/or non-required documents containing personally identifiable information, such as birth certificates, copies of passports, or social security cards.
- Do not send the instructions to Forms EOIR-31 and EOIR-31A.
- For applications submitted to the R&A Program electronically, include the appropriate USCIS District Office(s) on the same email to complete service. The Proof of Service sections in Forms EOIR-31 and EOIR-31A must still be completed.
- If you submit your application via postal mail:
- Print your application single sided.
- Do not use staples.
- Do not send folders, binders, etc.
- Use binder clips for large submissions.
- Do not three-hole punch submissions on the side. If you would like to hole punch your submission, you may do so using a two-hole punch centered at the top.
Avoid common deficiencies that will slow down the determination process:
- Make sure the authorized officer(s) information is current.
- Make sure that all relevant parts of the application forms are properly completed and, in particular, that the following sections are signed:
On Form EOIR-31: Declaration of Authorized Officer and Proof of Service on USCIS District Director(s), and
On Form EOIR-31A: Declaration of Authorized Officer, Declaration of Representative, and Proof of Service on USCIS District Director(s).
- If your organization is already recognized, before submitting an application, check the R&A Rosters to see how your organization’s name appears on the Rosters. If your organization is applying under a different name, provide documentation that links the previous name to the current name. Be sure to promptly notify EOIR of this and any other material changes, pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 1292.14(a).
- Ensure that your organization’s address is current. If the address on the Roster is not correct, please include with your application a letter signed by your authorized officer informing EOIR of the address change. It is insufficient to notify EOIR of this change on Form EOIR-31 or Form EOIR-31A alone. In the alternative, the authorized officer can send an email to R-A-Info@usdoj.gov informing EOIR of the change of address.
- Ensure that the authors of letters of recommendation are qualified to write the letters and are familiar with the proposed representative’s qualifications. See What should the recommendation letters for accreditation address? for more information on the letters of recommendation.
- Do not submit “form” or “boilerplate” letters of recommendation that merely change the proposed representative’s name. The letters should describe in detail the proposed representative’s qualifications to be an Accredited Representative and the author’s personal knowledge of those qualifications.
- For accreditation renewal applications, only send verifiable records demonstrating formal, immigration-related training taken since the date of last accreditation, not evidence of trainings taken prior to the current accreditation period.
- For extension of recognition applications, submit evidence of eligibility. Review 8 C.F.R. § 1292.15.
- For renewal of recognition applications, submit an annual summary for each calendar year and/or partial year since the last recognition approval. See 8 C.F.R. §§ 1292.14(b), 1292.16(c)(1).
- Check your expiration date on our Roster to confirm when you should apply for renewal.
An organization is “recognized” when DOJ gives a non-profit organization located in the United States permission to practice immigration law through Accredited Representatives before USCIS (DHS) only (partial accreditation) or before USCIS and EOIR (full accreditation). EOIR includes the immigration courts and the BIA. By regulation, a Recognized Organization must be a non-profit, federally tax-exempt, religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization established in the United States. You can read more about the eligibility requirements for an organization to be recognized here.
An organization that seeks to practice immigration law solely through attorneys does NOT need to be recognized because attorneys are authorized to appear before DHS and EOIR without DOJ Recognition or Accreditation.
DOJ Recognition of an organization does not constitute an endorsement of the organization by DOJ but rather indicates that the organization is qualified to provide immigration legal services through non-attorney staff members or volunteers in accordance with federal regulations. Organizations that provide services only through attorneys need not apply for DOJ Recognition because those organizations are already authorized to practice immigration law. An organization’s lack of DOJ Recognition should not be construed as a comment on the legitimacy of any services provided.
A non-profit organization interested in obtaining recognition must apply with EOIR and be approved. To apply for recognition, the organization’s authorized officer(s) must submit Form EOIR-31 (Rev. Oct. 2022). The Form EOIR-31 is found on the R&A Program’s main website. There is no fee to submit the form or to apply for recognition.
All documents submitted to EOIR must be served on the appropriate USCIS District Director office(s). If submitting your application to EOIR by email at R-A-Info@usdoj.gov, you may serve the appropriate USCIS District Office(s) by copying them on the same email.
To be eligible for initial recognition, an organization must meet the requirements described at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11, including:
- Establish that it is a non-profit religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization;
- Demonstrate that it provides immigration legal services primarily to low-income and indigent clients within the United States;
- Demonstrate the organization’s currently valid federal tax-exempt status or pending application for the same;
- Apply simultaneously to have at least one employee or volunteer approved as an Accredited Representative (using Form EOIR-31A);
- Demonstrate access to adequate knowledge, information, and experience in immigration law and procedure; and
- Designate at least one authorized officer to act on the organization’s behalf.
An organization seeking initial recognition must submit the following documentation as required by the regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11:
- Form EOIR-31, found on our website;
- Proof of currently valid non-profit status;
- Organizing documents, including a mission or purpose statement (e.g., bylaws, articles of incorporation);
- Summary of the immigration legal services to be provided;
- Fee schedule (if fees are charged);
- Detailed policies for fee waiver and reduction (if fees are charged);
- If fees are not charged, a statement within the cover letter indicating the lack of fees;
- Immigration legal services budget for current year;
- Immigration legal services budget for prior year (if the organization was not yet operational in the prior year, then submit a second budget for the upcoming year);
- Proof of currently valid federal tax-exempt status or that such status is applied for and pending;
- Application for accreditation of at least one proposed representative (Form EOIR-31A, found on our website, with supporting documentation); and
- Proof of access to adequate knowledge, information, and experience in all aspects of immigration law and procedure:
- Description of available legal
- Organizational chart with names,
titles, and supervisors of immigration legal staff;
- Description of the qualifications, experience, and breadth of immigration knowledge of these staff members; and
- Proof of any agreement entered into with non-staff immigration practitioners or recognized organizations for consultations or technical legal assistance.
An organization must supply its annual budget for providing immigration legal services for the current and prior years. If the organization has not previously offered immigration legal services and, therefore, does not have budgets for immigration legal services for the current or prior years, the organization must supply a projected annual budget for the upcoming year. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(c). A budget should be sufficiently detailed and include:
- Information about the organization’s operating expenses and its sources of revenue (e.g., fees for services, grants, donations);
- A list and explanation of each source of any grants received and funds being sought, even if not yet received; and
- A description of in-kind contributions, including volunteer time and office space.
If the organization is part of a larger organization with varied services, the immigration legal services budget should be separated out of the annual budget of the larger organization. If the organization is part of a larger organization with varied services, the immigration legal services budget should be separated out of the annual budget of the larger organization. Please see the sample budget demonstrating the information that must be included.
An organization must submit a copy of its organizing documents and include a statement showing its religious, charitable, social service, or similar mission. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(b). An organization may also want to provide letters of recommendation from community members, particularly letters showing the organization’s involvement in and commitment to the community it serves and the quality of its services.
Proof of federal tax-exempt status can consist of a currently valid IRS tax-exemption determination letter, alternative documentation to establish IRS tax exemption, or proof that the organization has applied for tax-exempt status. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(d). The rule provides for alternative documentation because it acknowledges that some alternative service models may exist that can be eligible to apply for recognition. For example, DOJ has recognized some government entities, such as libraries and schools, as alternative service models that are tax-exempt.
No, an organization requesting recognition must meet each eligibility requirement listed at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11. Two or more different entities may not join forces to cumulatively meet all the requirements. One of the eligibility criteria is that an applicant organization must be a federal tax-exempt organization (as opposed to merely having federal tax-exempt status). A project may not use a fiscal sponsor’s federal tax-exempt status to apply for recognition. The organization that is providing the immigration legal services must meet each requirement by itself, including being federally tax-exempt. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(a)(2).
An organization should submit paperwork evidencing that its non-profit status is currently valid with its state Secretary of State or similar agency. It is insufficient for the organization to submit documentation of its non-profit status at the time of incorporation unless the organization incorporated within the last year.
Under 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(b), an organization must submit:
- A copy of its organizing documents, including a statement of its mission or purpose;
- A declaration from its authorized officer attesting that it serves primarily low-income and indigent clients;
- A summary of the legal services to be provided;
- Its annual budget for the current year and, if available, its annual budget for the previous year; and
- If an organization charges fees for legal services, then the organization must also submit fee schedules and organizational policies or guidance regarding fee waivers or reduced fees based on financial need.
The organization may also submit additional documentation to demonstrate service to primarily low-income and indigent individuals, such as reports prepared for funders or information about other free or low-cost immigration-related services that it provides (e.g., educational or outreach events).
Yes, an organization may charge for its services; but to be recognized, the organization must declare and document that it serves primarily low-income and indigent clients. As the organization must be non-profit and federally tax-exempt to be recognized, EOIR will review the documents showing the organization’s fee schedules, revenue, and budget. The organization’s fee structure must be geared toward making immigration legal services available to primarily low-income and indigent clients. EOIR recommends that the organization explain any fees that are assessed on a case-by-case basis or that may be higher than other fees outlined on a fee schedule.
To show that its staff has adequate knowledge, information, and experience, an organization must submit:
- A description of the immigration legal services that the organization offers or seeks to offer;
- A description of the legal resources to which the organization has access;
- An organizational chart showing names, titles, and supervisors of immigration legal staff members;
- A description of the qualifications, experience, and breadth of immigration knowledge of these staff members, including but not limited to: resumes, letters of recommendation, certifications, and a list of all relevant, formal immigration-related trainings attended by staff members; and
- Any agreement or proof of a formal arrangement entered into with non-staff immigration practitioners or DOJ Recognized Organizations for consultations or technical legal assistance.
See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(e).
No. The purpose of recognition is to allow organizations to provide legal representation to low-income or indigent individuals through non-attorney Accredited Representatives, whether or not the organization has attorneys on staff. An organization that is offering immigration legal services only through attorneys does not need DOJ Recognition because attorneys are already authorized to practice immigration law.
If an organization is applying for initial recognition, it must simultaneously apply for the accreditation of at least one employee or volunteer who qualifies for accreditation and who will be providing services on behalf of the organization. EOIR will not consider applications for initial recognition that do not have an accompanying application for accreditation.
If a Recognized Organization applies for renewal of recognition but no longer has an Accredited Representative on staff, the organization will be placed on inactive status for up to two years as of the date the last Accredited Representative left the organization. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.16(i). EOIR may still approve an application for renewal of recognition of a Recognized Organization that is on inactive status.
The Recognized Organization’s authorized officer must promptly notify EOIR of any material changes, including changes in personnel of Accredited Representatives. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.14(a). If all the Accredited Representatives leave a Recognized Organization, the organization will maintain its recognition; however, the organization will be placed on inactive status and will not appear on the R&A Rosters. A Recognized Organization that loses all its accredited staff may continue to offer immigration legal services only through its attorney(s) on staff.
“Inactive status” indicates that the Recognized Organization does not currently have an Accredited Representative, although it did at one time. Inactive status can continue for up to two years from the date the organization was placed on inactive status, which is the date the organization lost its last Accredited Representative. This allows the organization time to apply for and have approved the accreditation of one or more new representatives. The organization maintains its recognition while it is on inactive status; however, the organization’s name and address do not appear on the Rosters. When at least one accreditation application is approved, the organization’s recognition is returned to active status, and the organization’s name and address will again appear on the Rosters. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.16(i).
If an organization does not submit and have approved an accreditation application by the end of the two-year period of inactive status, EOIR may terminate the organization’s recognition. Subsequently, if the terminated organization wants to provide immigration legal services through Accredited Representatives in the future, the organization will have to re-apply for recognition.
It depends. If an organization offers immigration legal services at an office location only through attorneys, the organization does not need to apply for recognition for that location. However, if an organization seeks to offer immigration legal services at an office location through a non-attorney, then the organization must apply for recognition of that location and accreditation of at least one individual. If there are multiple office locations, the organization can decide to apply for recognition of the offices either separately or jointly through an extension of the headquarters’ recognition.
Yes. As a part of their responsibilities, an authorized officer of the organization must promptly report to EOIR through written correspondence any material changes to the information contained in its applications for recognition and accreditation. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.14(a). Failure to promptly report material changes could lead to administrative termination of the organization’s recognition. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.17(b)(5).
Yes. An organization’s initial, conditional recognition is valid for a period of two years. An organization must apply for renewal of recognition before the two-year deadline passes. When an application for renewal of recognition is approved, recognition is valid for a period of six years from the date of EOIR’s approval. Applications for renewal must be postmarked by the last day of the recognition period; however, organizations are encouraged to submit renewal applications 90 days or more prior to the expiration date.
If a Recognized Organization timely submits a recognition renewal application, the organization’s recognition status remains valid pending EOIR’s determination on the application. In these cases, the organization’s Accredited Representatives can continue to represent clients.
If a Recognized Organization does not timely submit a recognition renewal application, EOIR will administratively terminate both the organization’s recognition and the accreditation of that organization’s representatives. Once recognition expires, the organization’s Accredited Representatives may no longer practice immigration law. To do so would be considered the unauthorized practice of immigration law. To regain DOJ Recognition, an organization must submit a new initial application for conditional recognition as well as at least one DOJ Accreditation application and wait until the applications are approved BEFORE the organization may resume providing immigration legal services through Accredited Representatives.
“Conditional recognition” is granted to an organization that has not been previously recognized, has federal tax-exempt status pending, or has been approved for recognition after recognition was previously terminated. Conditional recognition is valid for two years. When EOIR approves an initial application for renewal, it grants the organization conditional recognition for the first two years with the R&A Program. Once an organization has successfully renewed its recognition, the recognition is no longer conditional and is valid for six years before an organization must again renew its recognition.
Yes. EOIR may terminate the recognition of any organization that has failed to maintain the qualifications required for recognition or that is subject to disciplinary sanctions. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.17.
When recognition is terminated, the organization loses its status as a Recognized Organization. The name of the organization and the names of any Accredited Representatives affiliated with the organization are removed from the R&A Rosters. The organization and its staff can no longer use DOJ Recognition or Accreditation status in community outreach, to file forms, or to enter appearances before USCIS or EOIR (using Forms G-28, EOIR-27, or EOIR-28). Claiming DOJ Recognition or Accreditation status after an organization’s recognition is terminated would be considered the unauthorized practice of immigration law.
If you are concerned about an organization’s recognition, please notify EOIR.
An organization applying for recognition for the first time does not need to submit an annual summary. An organization applying to renew its recognition for the first time should submit an annual summary of the immigration legal services it provided during its first two years of recognition. The information should be separated by year and/or partial year from the date of the application.
Thereafter, once renewed, organizations must submit with their next renewal request an annual summary of immigration legal services provided for each of the last six years since renewal. An organization should not submit an annual summary at the end of each year; instead, the organization should include all the relevant annual summaries with its recognition renewal application at one time. See Sample Annual Summaries for reference.
A representative is “accredited” when DOJ authorizes a specially qualified non-lawyer to represent individuals in immigration legal matters. DOJ will accredit non-lawyer representatives only when they work or volunteer for a Recognized Organization but will never accredit a non-lawyer representative who tries to practice immigration law on their own. A representative’s accreditation is specific to the Recognized Organization and does not follow a representative who leaves the organization. If an individual who is accredited with a specific organization moves to work at a new organization, the new organization must file a new initial accreditation application for that individual before the individual may provide immigration legal services.
There are two kinds of accreditation: “partial” and “full.” A partially Accredited Representative may represent individuals before USCIS only. A fully Accredited Representative may represent individuals before both USCIS and EOIR, which includes the immigration courts and the BIA.
Only a Recognized Organization or an organization seeking recognition may apply for accreditation on behalf of an individual. To apply for a representative’s accreditation, the authorized officer, acting on behalf of the organization and proposed representative, must submit to EOIR a Form EOIR-31A. This form is found on our website.
The organization should read the requirements for accreditation found at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12 and be sure to include all required documents in the application packet. You can find a link to the regulations on our website.
All materials submitted to EOIR must be served on the appropriate USCIS District Director’s office(s). If submitting your application to EOIR by email, you may serve the appropriate USCIS District Director’s office(s) by copying them on the same email sent to the R&A Program at R-A-Info@usdoj.gov.
To establish an individual’s eligibility for accreditation, an organization must meet the requirements under the regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12, which include demonstrating that the individual:
- Has the character and fitness to represent clients before USCIS and/or EOIR;
- Is employed by or is a volunteer of the organization. An independent contractor may not receive EOIR accreditation;
- Is not an attorney, as defined by 8 C.F.R. § 1001.1(f);
- Has not resigned while a disciplinary investigation or proceeding is pending or is the subject of an order restricting the individual in the practice of law;
- Has not been found guilty of, or pleaded guilty to, a serious crime, as defined at 8 C.F.R. § 1003.102(h); and
- Possesses broad knowledge and adequate experience in immigration law and procedure.
No, known attorneys are not eligible for accreditation, regardless of whether they are in an inactive or retired status, because accreditation is unnecessary. It is in EOIR’s interests to rely on the resources of the licensing jurisdictions when seeking to permit competent representatives to appear in immigration proceedings. Attorneys with a limited right to practice law meet the definition of attorney at 8 C.F.R. § 1001.1(f). See also 73 FR at 44180. This includes attorneys in states that permit inactive or retired attorneys to engage in certain limited types of practice such as emeritus or pro bono work.
Furthermore, the explicit purpose of the R&A Program is to address “the critical and ongoing shortage of qualified legal representation for underserved populations . . . by increasing the availability of competent non-lawyer representation for underserved immigrant populations . . . while protecting the public from fraud and abuse by unscrupulous organizations and individuals.” 80 FR at 59514 (emphasis added). The section relating to the R&A Program is titled “Recognition of Organizations and Accreditation of Non-Attorney Representatives.” 8 C.F.R. Ch. V, Subch. B, Pt. 1292 (emphasis added).
Organizations that submit an initial application for partial accreditation of a proposed representative must include the following documentation as required by the regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12:
- Form EOIR-31A, which can be found on our website, and
- Proof of the proposed representative’s broad knowledge and adequate experience in immigration law and procedure. This includes:
- Current resume that describes qualifications to be an Accredited Representative, including education and immigration law experience;
- List of all relevant training in immigration law and procedure, including at least one formal course on the fundamentals of immigration law, procedure, and practice. Each course taken, including the fundamentals course, must be accompanied by a verifiable record. (See Sample List of Trainings for reference); and
- At least two letters of recommendation attesting to the proposed representative’s broad knowledge and adequate experience in immigration law and procedure. The authors must be qualified to write the letters, both because they are familiar with the applicant’s qualifications and because they themselves are familiar with immigration law and procedure.
The above documentation is also required to support an initial application for full accreditation. Organizations that seek full accreditation for a proposed representative will have to submit additional documentary requirements.
The organization should submit at least two letters of recommendation, verifying the proposed representative’s knowledge and experience in immigration law and procedure. The authors of the letters must be qualified to write on the proposed representative’s knowledge and experience, meaning they are familiar with the individual and his or her work. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12(c). The letters should provide detailed information on the authors’ familiarity with the proposed representative’s qualifications rather than just conclusory statements that the proposed representative “has broad knowledge and adequate experience in immigration law.” The same or different letters may also address the proposed representative’s character and fitness, which is helpful to support that requirement.
A new application for accreditation must include documentation of all the proposed representative’s relevant, formal, immigration-related training. This documentation must include proof that the proposed representative completed at least one course on the fundamentals of immigration law, procedure, and practice. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12(c). However, please be mindful that one course alone will rarely satisfy the broad-knowledge requirement.
While the specific content and duration of a fundamentals course may vary, the curriculum should be designed to give the attendee a broad overview of immigration law as it relates to the typical clients a Recognized Organization will see. Generally, a fundamentals course in immigration law should cover various forms of relief before the immigration courts and USCIS and would generally address the following topics: naturalization, family-based petitions, grounds of inadmissibility and removability, removal defenses, immigration consequences of crimes, and case management. Courses focusing primarily on the history of U.S. immigration law and theoretical concepts will generally not satisfy the requirement without an additional practical course or training (e.g., a law school immigration law clinic). The submitted documentation must include a verifiable record of attendance.
Accredited Representatives should document all the “relevant, formal immigration-related training” they have taken. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12(c). Proof of completion for each training attended must include a verifiable record. Those seeking renewal of accreditation must likewise demonstrate that they have continued to receive formal annual training in immigration law and procedure each year since the last date of approval. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.16(c)(2).
Training must be relevant and should show that it is “commensurate with the services the organization provides….” 8 C.F.R. § 1292.16(c)(2). If an organization only provides naturalization legal services, for example, the topics covered in the trainings a representative has taken should reflect this focus. The trainings may also cover other topics related to immigration law and procedure. However, when making a determination on the application, EOIR may consider trainings that are not related to the organization’s stated legal services to be less relevant.
Training must also be formal. It should be preplanned rather than impromptu and taught by a qualified instructor. The explicit purpose of the training should be to educate attendees on specific aspects of immigration law and procedure. Although training should be formal to qualify, it need not be external to the organization. A formal training led by an attorney or qualified instructor within the organization may qualify towards a representative’s requirements for annual training.
Accreditation applications, whether initial or renewal, should include a list of all trainings attended, indicating the title of the training, the provider’s name, date(s) and duration of the training, the names and titles of presenters, the topics covered, whether the training was attended in person or through other means, and whether the training was open to the public. Examples of activities that EOIR does not consider formal training are self-study, case-review meetings, stakeholder meetings at USCIS, and volunteering at workshops. However, these activities could be used to evaluate a representative’s immigration law experience.
Finally, training must be related to immigration law and procedure. Trainings on non-immigration law topics or in program management alone are likely insufficient to satisfy the requirement.
A “verifiable record” is a document, such as a signed certificate of completion with the proposed accredited representative’s name, that permits EOIR to independently verify that the individual completed training that had as its purpose an intent to impart knowledge or experience to assist with representation within the immigration system. Examples of a verifiable record may include, but are not limited to:
- signed certificates of completion;
- a signed affidavit, ideally from the instructor or the representative’s employer; or
- a print-out of an email confirming attendance that was sent to the representative directly. The representative must be named in the email and/or their email address must be apparent in the submitted documentation.
A verifiable record does not include unsigned and blank CLE certificates, copies of PowerPoint handouts, emails confirming attendance that are not sent to the representative’s email address, or emails simply confirming course registration.
EOIR understands that it is not in the representative’s ultimate control what information is included in a certificate of completion. Nevertheless, to expedite EOIR’s review of an application, it is helpful if the certificate of completion contains the following information:
- Name of training provider,
- Name of training,
- Name of attendee,
- Date training took place and duration (number of hours), and
- Name and signature of person responsible for issuing certificate.
An organization should provide the following information about each formal training attended by its proposed representative:
- Training title;
- Date(s) of attendance;
- Duration of substantive content of formal training, not self-study (# of hours);
- Presenter’s name;
- Presenter’s title;
- Topics covered;
- Whether attendance was via webinar or in person;
- Whether the training was open to the public; and
- Verifiable record of completion of the training.
Copies of PowerPoint handouts and other similar materials should NOT be included in the application. For conferences and other lengthy courses, it is helpful to include a schedule indicating what sessions a proposed representative attended or a course syllabus or program. See Sample List of Trainings for reference.
Accreditation applications should include a list of all relevant, formal, immigration-related trainings taken, including the duration of each. Calculate the durations using only time spent receiving formal instruction. Do not include hours spent in self-study, homework, test-taking, or preparation for a course. Often the duration will be reflected on a certificate of completion. If the training consisted of multiple sessions, calculate the time spent in each relevant session. Do not include the time spent registering, taking breaks, or eating lunch.
A proposed representative must demonstrate broad knowledge and adequate experience in immigration law and procedure. 8 C.F.R § 1292.12(a)(6). EOIR will evaluate adequate experience on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the proposed representative’s immigration law employment history, volunteer work, shadowing, and any other hands-on immigration law background. In addition to the amount of experience an individual has, EOIR will take into account the type of experience as well as the supervision the individual received in the course of the immigration work. For the purpose of an accreditation application, EOIR will not consider experience achieved while likely engaged in the unauthorized practice of law or without supervision by a licensed attorney or Accredited Representative.
EOIR encourages all organizations to provide as much detail as possible about the representative’s experience in the representative’s resume, letters of recommendation, separate supervisor letters, or any other documentation (for example, an hourly work log).
Specific factors that EOIR considers in evaluating experience for an initial accreditation application include, but are not limited to:
- The duration, frequency, and recency of a proposed representative’s experience (e.g., 40 hours/week for six months between [date] and [date], 15 hours/month over the past one year);
- The percentage of a proposed representative’s duties that relate to immigration law as opposed to administrative, clerical, or other tasks;
- The supervisor(s) the proposed representative had while gaining experience in immigration law, whether the supervisor was on site or remote, and the meaningfulness of the interactions with that supervisor (e.g., How frequently did the supervisor and the proposed representative interact? Did the supervisor provide feedback to the proposed representative? What was the supervisor’s background in immigration law?);
- The subject matter the proposed representative has experience in (e.g., naturalization, asylum);
- The type of immigration legal work the proposed representative has completed (e.g., legal screenings, filling out forms at naturalization clinics, shadowing client consultations); and
- The proposed representative’s background with other types of law, whether that experience was in the U.S. or abroad, and the duration and recency of the experience.
For accreditation renewal applications, EOIR will evaluate the Accredited Representative’s experience using the above factors and will apply those factors to the period of accreditation from the date of last approval. Documentation of the Accredited Representative’s work can include, but is not limited to:
- A list of the types of applications filed during the period of accreditation;
- Redacted briefs or memoranda filed by the Accredited Representative;
- A description of the type of work completed by the Accredited Representative since the date of last approval; and
- The number of cases where the Accredited Representative has represented clients before DHS (partially and fully Accredited Representatives) or EOIR (fully Accredited Representatives only).
- If the fully Accredited Representative has not represented any clients before EOIR at either the immigration courts or BIA during the period of accreditation, provide a description of how the representative has utilized their full accreditation such that partial accreditation would not be sufficient to suit the representative’s and organization’s needs.
Please be sure to redact any third-party client information when submitting examples of work completed by the representative.
For full accreditation renewal applications, EOIR may request client Registration Numbers (A-Numbers) to assess the representative’s work before the immigration courts and BIA.
The character and fitness requirement seeks to ensure that Accredited Representatives are individuals whom the public can trust to provide competent, reliable immigration legal services. This requirement also protects the integrity of the Recognition and Accreditation Program in accrediting individuals who are upstanding, trusted members of their communities. Character and fitness includes, but is not limited to, factors such as criminal background; prior acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; past history of neglecting professional, financial, or legal obligations; and current immigration status that presents an actual or perceived conflict of interest. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12(a)(1). In reviewing the proposed representative’s character and fitness, EOIR will conduct a criminal background check.
If any factors affect a representative’s character and fitness, whether before or during accreditation, the organization should be completely honest and forthcoming. It is better to be overly inclusive than to omit information. The organization should be candid and demonstrate that the individual is qualified to be an Accredited Representative and should note that EOIR has broad authority to request additional information to ensure complete review of this important requirement.
A partially Accredited Representative can represent clients only before USCIS, while a fully Accredited Representative is authorized to represent clients before USCIS and EOIR, which includes the immigration courts and the BIA. Because a fully Accredited Representative can appear before EOIR without attorney supervision, the representative must possess skills essential for effective litigation in addition to meeting all the requirements for partial accreditation. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12(a)(6), (c). This includes a demonstration that the proposed representative is able to advocate a client’s position by:
- Performing legal research;
- Presenting documentary evidence at a hearing before an immigration judge;
- Questioning witnesses at a hearing before an immigration judge;
- Pursuing appeals before the BIA; and
- Preparing motions and briefs for consideration by an immigration judge or the BIA.
All initial applications for accreditation, whether for partial or full accreditation, must at least contain the required documentation for partial accreditation. In addition, an initial application for full accreditation must also show how the proposed representative has developed the litigation skills described above, whether through training, education, or experience. For example, an organization may submit:
- A log of hours and observations from attending immigration court hearings;
- A log of hours spent shadowing an attorney or Accredited Representative who represents noncitizens before EOIR;
- A chart tracking cases pending before EOIR that the proposed representative has assisted with and specifying in what capacity;
- Redacted writing samples of briefs and motions co-authored by the proposed representative;
- Evidence of attendance at trainings that focus on practice before EOIR and the development of advocacy skills;
- Documentation showing participation in mock trials or similar activities; and
- Letters of recommendation that describe in detail the sources of the proposed representative’s advocacy-related skills, knowledge, and experience, written by authors with first-hand knowledge of these skills.
An Accredited Representative seeking renewal of full accreditation should provide examples of cases represented before EOIR since last accredited. In the alternative, if the Accredited Representative has not represented clients before EOIR during the past three years, the organization should provide an explanation as to why full accreditation is requested. In addition to this explanation, the organization should demonstrate how the representative has maintained skills essential for effective litigation and continued to receive formal training, education, or experience related to trial and appellate advocacy. The organization may do so by providing documents such as those listed above for initial full accreditation.
Yes. Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 1292.1(f), as a condition of practice before EOIR, attorneys and fully Accredited Representatives must eRegister. At accreditation renewal, a fully Accredited Representative who has not eRegistered and, therefore, has not practiced before EOIR, must demonstrate why full accreditation is requested and what steps the applicant has taken to maintain necessary litigation and advocacy skills.
EOIR automatically treats an application for full accreditation to include an application for partial accreditation. If an application for full accreditation does not meet the regulatory requirements, EOIR will consider it as an application for partial accreditation. If the proposed representative meets all the requirements for partial accreditation but not for full, the individual may be approved as a partially Accredited Representative without having to submit a new application. However, if the proposed representative is not eligible for either full or partial accreditation, then the application will be disapproved.
Yes. A Recognized Organization can apply for accreditation of a representative at any time. Accreditation is valid for three years, after which time the organization would need to apply for renewal of accreditation of the representative.
Where a representative is partially accredited and is seeking full accreditation, an application for full accreditation is treated as an initial accreditation application and may be filed as part of an accreditation renewal or at any time prior to the renewal period.
Yes. Accreditation is valid for a period of three years from the date of EOIR’s approval. To maintain valid accreditation, an organization must apply for accreditation renewal on its representative’s behalf on or before the three-year accreditation expiration date.
If a Recognized Organization timely submits an accreditation renewal application, the Accredited Representative’s accreditation status remains valid pending EOIR’s determination on the application. In these cases, the Accredited Representative can continue to file notices of appearance (Forms G-28, EOIR-27, or EOIR-28) on behalf of their clients by indicating “Renewal Application Pending” along with the last accreditation approval (or renewal) date, if requested.
If a Recognized Organization does not timely submit an accreditation renewal application for its Accredited Representative, EOIR will administratively terminate the accreditation of the representative. Once accreditation expires, the individual may no longer provide legal services as an Accredited Representative. To do so would be considered the unauthorized practice of immigration law. To regain a representative’s accreditation after expiration, an organization must submit a new initial application on behalf of the representative and wait until the application is approved BEFORE the individual can continue providing immigration legal services.
It depends on whether and how the multiple offices have been recognized.
- Recognized Principal and Extension Offices: Yes.
- Under the current regulations, a Recognized Organization can apply to have its recognition extended from a headquarters (principal office) to one or more extension office(s). 8 C.F.R. § 1292.15. Once the organization has approved extension offices, the organization’s Accredited Representatives may work out of all extension offices.
- Separately Recognized Office Locations: Yes, but each location must submit its own accreditation application.
- An organization that does not apply for extension of recognition may have separately recognized office locations. In this case, each separately recognized office location that wants a representative to work there must submit a separate accreditation application for the representative.
- Some Recognized and Some Non-Recognized Office Locations: Only at the Recognized Locations.
- If an organization’s office location is not recognized, whether separately or as an extension, the organization’s Accredited Representatives MAY NOT provide immigration legal services out of that location. To do so may constitute the unauthorized practice of law. If an organization has a recognition or extension of recognition application pending, its Accredited Representatives must wait until that application is approved before beginning to work out of that non-recognized site.
Yes. As with initial applications, an organization should use Form EOIR-31 to apply for recognition renewal and Form EOIR-31A to apply for renewal of accreditation of a representative. The forms are available on the R&A Program's website.
No, there is no fee to apply for renewal of recognition or accreditation. If you are approached by someone claiming there is a fee to apply for renewal of recognition or accreditation, please alert the R&A Program.
No. Accreditation and recognition are valid for different periods and generally do NOT run simultaneously. Each renewal application must be submitted on or before the date that accreditation or recognition is due to expire.
Accreditation is valid for a three-year period. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12(d). Recognition is generally valid for a six-year period. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(f).
An organization that is initially recognized receives conditional recognition for two years and must submit its first recognition renewal application before the expiration of the two-year period. Once EOIR approves the organization’s first recognition renewal application, the organization will remain recognized for six years, after which it must file for renewal on or before the expiration of the six-year period.
A Recognized Organization seeking renewal of recognition needs to establish that it remains eligible for recognition under 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11(a). As such, the organization is required to submit the below records, specified in 8 C.F.R. §§ 1292.14(b) and 1292.16(c). (You can find a link to the regulations on the R&A website.) The renewing organization should ensure that it is the same legal entity that was originally recognized by EOIR and that its original non-profit and tax-exempt statuses remain intact.
- Form EOIR-31, signed by an authorized officer (note: if the authorized officer has changed, the organization must report that change to the R&A Program);
- Any fee schedules or fee reduction/waiver policies used since last renewal;
- Budget for current year;
- Budget for previous year;
- Description of any unreported changes that impact eligibility for recognition from the date of the last approval of recognition;
- Organizational chart if there have been staff changes since recognition or last renewal;
- Evidence of current tax-exempt status, if that status is based on a larger entity’s group ruling (e.g., a letter from a denomination’s headquarters stating that the Recognized Organization is still included in its group ruling; the relevant pages of the Official Catholic Directory for organizations that derive their tax-exempt status from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops);
- Evidence of current non-profit status; and
- Annual summaries:
- Total number of clients served (including intakes, applications prepared and filed with USCIS, cases in which attorneys or Accredited Representatives appeared before the immigration courts or the BIA, or referrals to other attorneys or organizations);
- Number of clients served pro bono (at no cost to the client) (See definition of pro bono legal services at 8 C.F.R. § 1003.61(a)(2));
- Description of the services provided, both immigration legal and immigration-related (educational, outreach, etc.);
- Statement regarding whether services were provided pro bono or clients were charged in accordance with a fee schedule or fee reduction/waiver policy; and
- List of the offices or locations where the immigration legal services were provided.
In contrast, a new organization seeking initial recognition would need to supply more comprehensive supporting documentation under 8 C.F.R. § 1292.11.
A Recognized Organization is placed on inactive status when it loses its last Accredited Representative. Inactive status lasts for two years. An inactive organization must request renewal of recognition if its renewal period falls within this two-year period. EOIR has the discretion to renew recognition of an organization on inactive status. See 8 C.F.R. § 1292.16(i).
Like any other renewing organization, an organization on inactive status, must complete Form EOIR-31 and provide the required documentation to establish that it remains eligible for recognition. However, because an inactive organization, by definition, does not have at least one Accredited Representative, the recognition renewal application must also include an attestation that the organization intends to apply for the accreditation of one or more representatives within two years from the date of renewal. An inactive Recognized Organization will become active (i.e., removed from inactive status) once it applies for and has approved an Accredited Representative within the applicable period.
To apply for the renewal of accreditation of an Accredited Representative, the Recognized Organization must submit the following documentation as required by the regulations at 8 C.F.R. §§ 1292.16(b)(2) and (c)(2):
- Form EOIR-31A, signed by an authorized officer (note: if the authorized officer has changed, the organization must report that change to the R&A Program);
- Notification of any changes in eligibility under 8 C.F.R. § 1292.12(a); and
- List of continued, relevant training in immigration law and procedure during the past three years, including verifiable records of completion (note: the list should NOT include trainings attended prior to the most recent renewal or trainings that covered topics that are irrelevant to the applicant’s work as an Accredited Representative).
Although not necessarily required, the organization should be prepared to provide letters of recommendation addressing the renewal applicant’s continued knowledge and experience in immigration law, if requested by EOIR.
Extension of Recognition
“Extension of recognition” allows an organization’s headquarters (parent or principal office) to “extend” its recognition to additional office locations. The purpose of extension of recognition is to simplify communication and the application process for a qualifying organization with more than one location. If approved, the designated office will be responsible for all recognition- and accreditation-related communications and applications on behalf of both itself and its extension office(s).
An organization with multiple locations has two options when applying for recognition:
Extension of Recognition
The headquarters (parent or principal office) can apply for its own recognition and simultaneously request that recognition be extended to the organization’s separate office location(s). The headquarters would submit one application packet that would include the separate office(s).
EOIR may grant the request for extension if the organization establishes that the proposed extension location(s) shares joint operations, management structure, and funding sources; has access to the same legal resources; and is periodically inspected by the headquarters office.
If approved, all locations will have the same recognition renewal date, and any representative accredited to work at one location will be authorized to work at all locations, simply by submitting one Form EOIR-31A.
An organization may also apply for separate recognition for each of its locations. Each office must submit its own recognition application packet and its own accreditation application packet for any proposed Accredited Representative planning to work at that location. Each office location would then be considered a separate Recognized Organization and would need to renew its recognition separately in the future. Also, if an Accredited Representative is planning to work at more than one separate office location, each location must submit its own accreditation applications for the proposed Accredited Representative, both the initial application and any renewals thereafter.
A Recognized Organization can apply for extension of recognition to any of its offices at any time, including when applying for initial recognition.
Yes. An organization should use Form EOIR-31 and complete Part 7 of the form to request an extension of recognition. The form is available on the R&A Program's website.
No, there is no fee to apply for extension of recognition. If you are approached by someone claiming there is a fee to apply for extension of recognition, please alert the R&A Program.
Applications for extension of recognition, regardless of when submitted, must include supporting documentation that demonstrates the headquarters:
- periodically conducts inspections of extension offices;
- exercises supervision and control over its Accredited Representatives at those offices; and
- provides adequate legal resources at those offices.
Along with initial applications for recognition: An initial application for recognition may also include a request to extend recognition to additional office locations. If EOIR approves both the organization’s recognition and an extension to additional office locations, the headquarters will appear on the R&A Rosters as the Recognized Organization with its extension offices listed below. At the time of renewal, the headquarters must only submit one request on behalf of all the offices.
If EOIR approves the headquarters’ recognition but does not approve the extension of recognition to additional office locations, the additional office locations may submit separate applications for recognition. The additional office locations must submit a separate accreditation application for a proposed representative who would work at that office, even if EOIR already approved the representative to work at the headquarters or at a different office location. In this case, the headquarters and additional offices would appear separately on the R&A Rosters and must renew their recognitions separately by submitting their own application packets.
During recognition period: An organization may apply for extension of recognition at any point during its recognition period. To apply for extension of recognition, a Recognized Organization must submit Form EOIR-31 and provide the necessary supporting documentation listed above.
Along with applications for renewal of recognition: An organization may request extension of recognition along with an application for renewal of recognition. If EOIR approves both the headquarters’ recognition and the request for extension of recognition, the extension office does not submit a separate recognition renewal application. Any representative(s) accredited through the headquarters are authorized to work at the extension office without the extension office needing to submit separate accreditation applications.
No. The organization may share Accredited Representatives among approved extension offices but must offer the services of at least one Accredited Representative at every extension office on a regular basis. If an extension office stops offering immigration legal services by Accredited Representatives at an extension office, the organization has a duty to promptly notify EOIR of this change so that the extension office can be removed from the R&A Rosters.
Yes, an Accredited Representative can work at all approved extension offices of their Recognized Organization.
When seeking extension of recognition, an organization should designate as its headquarters the office that supervises the organization’s other offices. The organization should establish that the subordinate offices have joint operations, management structure, and funding sources with the headquarters. In addition, the headquarters’ authorized officer must attest that they exercise supervision and control over the Accredited Representatives in the extension offices. 8 C.F.R. § 1292.15.
When determining whether an office qualifies as an extension of the headquarters, EOIR will generally ask the following questions:
- Is the extension office part of the same legal entity as the headquarters?
- Is the extension office under the same Board of Directors as the headquarters?
- Is the extension office within the same line of management as the headquarters? Do the managers at the extension office report directly to the headquarters?
- Does the headquarters have central oversight of the personnel and procedure at the extension office? Is the headquarters involved in the hiring of personnel at the extension office? Does the headquarters set program policies and standard practices for the extension office?
- Does the headquarters conduct periodic site visits of the extension office? If so, how often? How does the headquarters communicate with the personnel at the extension office?
- Does the headquarters have centralized legal resources and training for the personnel at the extension office?
- Where is the extension office geographically located with respect to the headquarters?
- How many extension offices does the headquarters have?
- Does the extension office receive any funding directly from the headquarters? How does the headquarters determine how to fund the extension office?
- Is the extension office included in the headquarters’ legal malpractice insurance policy?
- Has the headquarters had prior issues with supervising other extension offices?