Should You Appeal a USCIS Denial to the AAO or Proceed Directly to Federal Court?

In general, I tend to advise against appealing USCIS denials to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). In most situations, I believe proceeding directly to federal court may be a more efficient option.

Appealing to the AAO often extends the length of a case substantially. Furthermore, there’s a possibility that the AAO might affirm the denial on different grounds, potentially introducing a complication that may be more challenging to dispute in federal court compared to the original denial grounds.

However, there’s a strategic circumstance where appealing to the AAO can be beneficial. If you possess additional substantive evidence that you could submit as part of the appeal, going to the AAO could be more advantageous. Once an APA case is filed in federal court, there’s no opportunity to present new evidence. Therefore, even if an AAO appeal results in an affirmed denial, it may still be worth the effort if the new evidence introduced bolsters your case for eventual litigation in federal court.