If you’ve received a Notice to Appear in the mail, chances are that you are in a panic trying to figure out what is happening. There are probably many more questions than there are answers. Allow us to explain what is happening and how we can help.
You may receive a NTA at any time if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tells the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that you are not a citizen and that you have violated immigration law in some way.
What To Expect In A Removal Proceeding
The first step after you’ve been served the NTA and it has been filed with the courts, is the Master Hearing. Sometimes you may have multiple Master Hearings. At this hearing and the hearings that follow, DHS will be trying to prove that you should be removed. They will present evidence that you have violated immigration laws in some way. It is then for the judge to determine whether that violation is enough to remove you from the U.S.
The process can continue through multiple hearings if your situation warrants.
Understanding Your Rights
Your first right is the right to be notified of the case being made against you. If an NTA is filed with the courts but you are never served, the proceedings cannot continue. At the Master Hearing, you have the right to either confirm or deny the allegations against you; this is the same as claiming innocence or guilt. Your lawyer will determine if confirming the allegations will lead to a better outcome than denying them, or vice versa. If the judge rules in favor of removal, you have the right to request relief.
There are several grounds under which you may apply for relief:
- Discretionary Relief
- Voluntary Departure — if there is a high probability of removal, voluntary departure allows you to leave the country of your own volition, avoiding the negative history of deportation while also avoiding any fines or other penalties associated with deportation
- Cancellation of Removal as a lawful permanent resident — to be eligible, you must be a lawful permanent for a period of 5 years, lived continuously in the U.S. for 7 years and not been convicted of an aggravated felony.
- Cancellation of Removal as a non-permanent resident- to be eligible, you must have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years, show that you a person of good moral character, and show extremely and exceptionally unusual hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse, parent and/or child
- Asylum — can be granted under certain circumstances to those who can prove that they face unjust treatment and/or persecution if they return to their home country
- Adjustment of Status — if conditions are met, you can apply for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident
Receiving A Notice To Appear (NTA)
DHS serves the NTA in one of three ways:
- Served to you personally, and you sign acknowledging that you received it
- Mailed to the address on file with authorities
- Served to your immigration lawyer, if you have one.
Make sure you carefully review the NTA. If there is any information on the paperwork that is false, be sure to note it. All of your personal identification information, including address, needs to be correct. If the address is not right you or your lawyer should notify the court and the DHS to prevent missing any important court information. Your legal status will be marked; make sure it is correct. The factual allegations will lay out how you came to this country and what they believe you’ve done wrong. The charges of removability indicate the exact reason DHS believes you should be removed.
It is important to go through this entire document; when you meet with your attorney, he or she will put together the removal and deportation defense.
Attending Your Hearing
It is absolutely imperative that you do not miss your hearing under any circumstances. If you miss your hearing, the judge can order you removed in absentia. If you miss this hearing and the judge orders removal in absentia, you lose your right to apply for relief.
Work With Experienced Immigration Attorneys
The information provided here is only a brief introduction of how this complex process works. Having an immigration attorney will help you avoid mistakes and missed hearings. As soon as you receive an NTA, contact an immigration attorney; he or she can get started working on strategies for your defense.
At Johnson & Masumi, we have handled the most complex removal cases with success. We have decades of combined experience and pride ourselves on our committed advocacy and creative thinking to help our clients succeed. If you have questions about your case, please contact our immigration attorneys today.