Surprisingly, many foreign nationals do not understand or realize when they are being put into removal proceedings. This is understandable because more often than not, unless the individual has been arrested and processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the only indication the person will have that formal proceedings are being instituted to remove him/her is an innocuous looking document called a "Notice To Appear" ("NTA"). While only one or two pages long, a Notice to Appear (NTA) is an extremely important legal document with potentially dire ramifications if not addressed properly.
What is a Notice to Appear?
An NTA is a charging document that informs the alien (called the "respondent") the basis upon which the government is seeking to remove him/her. It may allege grounds of inadmissibility or grounds of deportability. It is usually either hand-delivered or in many cases, sent by mail.
What is in a Notice to Appear?
First, the NTA will list the alien's biographical information (your name, alien registration number, date of birth and address). This should be reviewed this carefully because any typos, misspellings, or inaccurate information could lead to future problems, such as not receiving subsequent court notices, etc.
Secondly, the NTA will have three boxes, each with a statement next to it. Only one box will be marked, and this will indicate the class of removable aliens the government has classified the respondent under. The respective categories are:
(1) You are an arriving alien (this indicates that you have not yet been admitted to the United States);
(2) You are an alien present in the US., who has not been admitted or paroled (this usually means that you have entered the US without inspection); or
(3) You have been admitted to the U.S., but are removable for the reasons stated below....
Following this, the NTA will state the factual allegations that render the alien removable. For example, it may charge that the person is a citizen of India, was admitted to the United States on a visitor's visa, and stayed past his authorized date. Below that, the document will list the legal basis of removability, the provision(s) of the Immigration and Nationality Law ("INA") allegedly violated, and the date/time/location of the initial master calendar hearing.
The notice will also inform the alien of his/her, including the right to be represented by counsel (at the alien's own expense), the consequences of failing to appear at the scheduled hearing, and the obligation to notify the Immigration Court of any change in address. The NTA will finally state how the NTA was served on the alien.
What should be done after receiving the NTA?
First and foremost, the alien should always go to the scheduled master calendar hearing. Failure to do so could lead to an in absentia Order of Removal, meaning that the Court can order the respondent removed even if the alien is not present in court. This could obviously lead to further problems down the road: if the alien is apprehended at a later time, he/she may not even have a chance to plead his/her case before an Immigration Judge because there is already an outstanding order of removal.
What happens at the Master Calendar Hearing?
A master calendar hearing is a preliminary hearing where the alien will appear before the immigration judge and the government attorney to determine how the case will proceed. At this hearing, the judge will normally schedule a future date for an individual merits hearing as well as deadlines for the respondent to submit any written documents, if the case is being contested. While the Master Hearing normally does not encompass a trial, the alien will nevertheless be required to admit or deny the factual allegations lodged in the NTA, and tell the judge what forms of relief he/she will be claiming.
What defenses can be claimed?
This will depend on the individual's situation. Some legal forms of relief may include:
· Cancellation of Removal for Lawful Permanent Residents
· Cancellation of Removal for Non-Permanent Residents
· Adjustment of Status
· Asylum, Withholding of Removal, or Relief under the Torture Convention Act
These are just a few of the more common defenses that can be raised. By no means is this list exhaustive and each defense has its own statutory criteria. The point is that while the NTA signifies the start of removal proceedings, it does not necessarily mean the end. The government does not always prevail, and skilled, experienced advocacy grounded in sound legal argument can make a significant difference.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.