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What to Expect If You Receive a Notice to Appear

| Apr 20, 2019 | Immigration Law

If you are an immigrant in the U.S., receiving a letter in your mailbox containing a Notice to Appear (NTA) may mean having your worst fears realized. An NTA is a formal means by which the U.S. government informs a non-U.S. citizen currently living in the country that removal (deportation) proceedings against him or her have officially started.

Receiving this notice may indeed feel ominous and even outright scary. However, as a non-U.S. citizen who has been notified that you must appear for a series of hearings, you should also realize that it does not equal automatic deportation. In fact, the burden of proof during the hearing will be on the U.S. government – which means that it will be the job of the appropriate authorities to present you with reasons for your potential inadmissibility or deportability and provide sufficient legal evidence for either. In order to increase your chances of staying in the country, you have to be aware of what happens at a removal hearing and how you can exercise your rights. This article will help you do just that.

Master Calendar Hearing

The removal proceedings actually consist of a series of hearings rather than a single trial. The first hearing is called a master calendar hearing and it is usually a very brief appearance before the court. The purpose of a master calendar hearing is to introduce your case and defense before the judge. You will usually appear before the judge along with other people who have received NTAs, and the whole process will last probably only a few minutes. You will have the immigration charges against you read, after which you will be asked to admit or deny the allegations. If you deny the charges, then the government officials need to prove their allegations, so the judge will usually schedule another hearing for that purpose.

Merits Hearing

The next part of your removal case is called a merits or individual hearing. Representatives of the immigration agency have to present the court with arguments and evidence in order to support their case. Both sides are allowed to present and interview witnesses. A merits hearing looks much more like a normal court trial than a master calendar hearing. It is much longer too – it can last for a day or even a few days depending on the particular circumstances of the case. At the merits hearing, you may defend your right to stay in the U.S. even if the allegations made against you are true by seeking relief from removal.

At the end of your merits hearing, the judge may immediately pronounce the decision whether you can stay in the U.S. or if you will be deported back to your home country. However, the judge may also choose to issue a written decision for which you may have to wait longer to receive.

Post-Hearing Options

If the judge grants relief, it means that the removal proceedings against you will be canceled and that you will be allowed to stay in the U.S. However, even a negative decision doesn’t have to mean an immediate removal since you may also have an option to appeal the initial verdict. If the judge issues an order of removal, you have to carefully analyze your options with an experienced immigration lawyer to see if the appeal is possible in your case.

Rotella & Hernandez are courageous and compassionate immigration and family lawyers in Miami, Florida. If you or a family member have received a Notice to Appear and have the removal proceedings against you initiated, contact us immediately to schedule a consultation where an experienced immigration attorney will analyze your case and advise about the options you may have to fight the removal.