What Is a DOJ-Accredited Representative and why are they important

What is a DOJ-Accredited Representative?

DOJ-accredited representatives play a vital role in ensuring access to justice for people in need through legal aid.  At North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic, we strive to meet the needs of our clients by using a holistic approach and using all resources at our disposal. The inclusion of a DOJ-accredited representative is particularly beneficial for clients seeking free, accessible legal help. These trained non-attorneys, authorized by the Department of Justice, are equipped to offer specialized immigration legal services. The presence of a DOJ-accredited representative augments the attorneys on staff by providing specialized immigration expertise and additional capacity to handle complex cases, thereby enhancing the overall effectiveness of NSLAC’s services 

What is a DOJ-Accredited Representative? 

A DOJ-accredited representative is a trained non-attorney authorized by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide immigration legal services. These individuals work exclusively for recognized non-profit organizations, ensuring that those who cannot afford private attorneys have access to crucial legal representation. Depending on their accreditation, DOJ-accredited representatives can represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), including the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  

What is the importance of DOJ-accredited representatives? 

The DOJ-accredited representative program was established to bridge the gap in legal representation for immigrants. By working within recognized non-profit organizations, DOJ-accredited representatives provide specialized expertise in immigration law, supporting clients with legal advice, immigration paperwork, and court representation. Through their work, they ensure that low-income and underserved communities receive the help they need to navigate complex immigration processes. 

What is the difference between partial and full accreditation?  

Depending on where a DOJ-accredited representative is on their accreditation, their work may vary significantly.  

  • Partially Accredited Representatives: These representatives can assist with preparing immigration forms, provide legal advice, and represent clients before DHS. However, their representation does not extend to immigration courts or appeals. 
  • Fully Accredited Representatives: In addition to the services provided by partially accredited representatives, fully accredited representatives can represent clients before both DHS and EOIR (the Immigration Court and BIA). This allows them to handle more complex cases, including deportation defense and appeals. 

What types of cases do DOJ-accredited representatives handle?  

DOJ-accredited representatives can handle a wide range of immigration cases, depending on their level of accreditation.  

  • Partially Accredited Representatives: Manage visa applications, work permits, family reunification, asylum applications, and citizenship processes by preparing forms and providing legal advice.  
  • Fully Accredited Representatives: Handle all of the above, plus represent clients before both DHS and EOIR (the Immigration Court and BIA), managing complex cases such as deportation defense and appeals.

What education and training does a DOJ-Accredited Representative require? 

While DOJ-accredited representatives are not required to have a college degree, they must undergo specific training and education in immigration law. This includes completing relevant courses and certifications, as well as participating in ongoing education to stay updated with changes in immigration law. To maintain their accreditation, they must continue to meet certain requirements and adhere to professional, ethical, and performance standards. Regular review and renewal of their accreditation is required to ensure they continue to provide competent and effective legal assistance to immigrants.  

What is the difference between DOJs and Attorneys? 

  • DOJ-Accredited Representatives: These non-attorneys are trained in immigration law and work for DOJ-recognized non-profits. They can either assist with immigration forms and advice (partial accreditation) or represent clients in immigration court (full accreditation), with their licensing managed by the DOJ. 
  • Attorneys: Hold law degrees, are licensed by state bar associations and can practice in all areas of law, representing clients in any legal matter and in all courts. 

NSLAC’s role with DOJ-accredited representatives 

As a non-profit organization, recognized by the EOIR to provide representation through accredited representatives, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic’s (NSLAC) mission is to provide quality, equitable, free legal services to give low-income, at-risk community members access to justice and the opportunity to live productive and secure lives. Our team, comprising DOJ-accredited representatives and attorneys, ensures that all community members have access to high-quality, legal representation. The work of our NSLAC’s DOJ-accredited representatives goes beyond the courtroom and into the community, engaging in education opportunities to empower individuals with the knowledge they need to navigate the legal system and their rights.  

Why Consider Becoming a DOJ-Accredited Representative? 

The DOJ-Accredited Representative program is a fantastic initiative. It not only supports the immigrant community but also offers a great opportunity for professionals who may not be considering law school at the moment but have a desire to serve immigrants and gain legal experience. “ - Esteban Carbajal, previous DOJ-accredited representative, and NSLAC supervising attorney. 

Free Immigration Services in north suburban Cook County and Lake County 

North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic (NSLAC) provides free legal aid to immigrants living in north suburban Cook County and Lake County, Illinois. If you or someone you know is in need of immigration legal services, please schedule a consultation HERE. Services are available regardless of immigration status. NSLAC also provides free legal aid in domestic violence and housing.  

Sources:  

Board of Immigration Appeals. Board of Immigration Appeals Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Recognition and Accreditation (R&A) Program the BIA Welcomes Suggestions and Encourages the Public to Provide Comments on These FAQs. If You Have Recommendations to Improve These FAQs, Please Contact the Recognition and Accreditation Program Coordinator. 2015. 

“Recognition & Accreditation (R&A) Program.” Www.justice.gov, 13 Jan. 2015, www.justice.gov/eoir/recognition-and-accreditation-program

Tenney, Amy Bliss. DOJ RECOGNITION and ACCREDITATION a Step-By-Step Guide for Non- Profit Community-Based Agencies. Mar. 2021. 

The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed between NSLAC and the reader. NSLAC is not liable for any action taken or not taken based on this blog. Readers should contact an attorney with any questions regarding the content.
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