AAO Caselaw


How to Use This Section

On the left side of this page is a navigation bar that lists Cases by the year they were decided. Some identifying information is listed at the top of each Case to give you some guidance on how that Case can be used.

Caselaw Explained

There are two kinds of laws that makeup the "law" someone thinks of when they think of US Immigration Law, as it pertains to O Visas. The first is Statutes. These are laws written by the government that say who is eligible for an O Visa, and how their Petition should be adjudicated. There are a small number of Statutes on O Visa law, and they tend to be very generally worded. For instance, although a lot of dancers come to the US on O Visas, you won't find the word "dancer" in any of the O Visa Statutes.

The second kind of law is Caselaw. Caselaw for O Visas happens when someone is denied an O Visa, and then they appeal that decision. A Judge, or panel of Judges, then looks at why they were denied, and writes a document explaining how the Statute apply to that particular Petition. That document is referred to as a "Case". This Case then gets filed, so the next time either an Immigration Officer or another Judge is looking at a Petition, they can refer to that document and see how the previous Judge applied the law.

For example, let's pretend a dancer gets denied because the Immigration Officer found that she was never a 'lead' in a play. The Judge that handles the Appeal might write a case saying that, while the Statute doesn't actually say it, if the play has less than 5 people in it, then they are all considered leads. Now, the next time a dancer with less than 5 people in a play applies, the Immigration officer will look and see that a Judge (their boss), said that this should count as a lead.

To make things a little more complicated, there are Precedent and Non-Precedent cases. Precedent cases mean everyone beneath that Judge must follow the case. Non-Precedent cases means everyone beneath that Judge can/should follow the case.