USCIS Appeals Office Says ‘No’ 92 Percent of the Time

But a tiny sliver of the immigration system

By David North on November 1, 2023

While their colleagues at the border are rubber-stamping 95.8 percent approvals for the entry-by-appointment parolees, who appear in vast numbers, there are other bits and pieces of the immigration system that continue to say “no” at a steady rate — but to smaller populations, often those seeking lesser immigration benefits.

Today we look at the work of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), a USCIS appeals body that reviews adverse staff decisions in 39 categories, some major and some minor. These are not usually stay-in-the-country-or-leave-it decisions; rather, they mostly deal with efforts by aliens to get a different nonimmigrant, immigrant, or naturalization status.

The full list of the 39 categories starts with form I-129-CW which deals with nonimmigrant workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and ends with the N-600 form, which is the “application for Certificate of Citizenship, [and] is filed to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship which serves as evidence of your or your child's U.S. citizenship. You may file Form N-600 if you were born abroad and are claiming U.S. citizenship at birth through your parents.”

For many years the most common form appealed to AAO was the I-360C; these were filed on behalf of special immigrant juveniles, young illegal aliens in the care of juvenile courts who can become green card holders under some circumstances. Most of the "yes" decisions among the 39 categories were in this one.

AAO decision-makers are not judges with gowns, nor are the decisions made after a public hearing. These cases are mail-order matters, with seasoned civil servants reviewing documents submitted to them by the aliens or their lawyers. A review of statistics in the most recent USCIS table dealing with them, a 624 cell table in small type (with no all-forms totals) — a format seemingly designed to decrease interest in the subject — we find that, in FY 2023, there were 151 sustains of the alien’s position, and 1,783 dismissals.

Thus, there were a total of 1,934 decisions made. There were also a couple of hundred “remands” calling for reviews of staff decisions — an unknown percentage of them will ultimately be decided in favor of the alien, and an unknown percentage of them the other way.

Thus we have a denial percentage (for the 1,934 yes-or-no decisions) of 92.2 percent.

So the naysayers in this part of the system continue to reject a large portion of alien claims, but this is being done in tiny numbers compared to the surging crowds at the border — Hans Brinker with his finger in the badly damaged dike.