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Immigration Court 101: The Notice to Appear

Have you received a document called a “Notice to Appear” or “NTA” but aren’t quite sure what it all means? This is the first step in the removal (deportation) process. A Notice to Appear is a document issued by the Department of Homeland Security. It is a charging document that orders you to appear before an Immigration Judge in Immigration Court. The Notice will use the term “alien,” which refers to any person who is not a national or citizen of the U.S. It will state that you are either an “arriving alien,”
which indicates that you are seeking lawful admission to the United States, “an alien present in the United States who has not been admitted or paroled,” which refers to undocumented individuals who were not given permission to enter the United States, or will state that “you have been admitted to the United States, but are removable for the reasons stated below.” This last classification means that you had or currently have permission to be in the United States, but can still be deported, or “removed,” for the reason(s) listed. The Notice will next make factual allegations about you and list the legal basis that the government is claiming makes you removable (“deportable”) from the U.S. The bottom of the first page should provide the location, date, and time or your first immigration court hearing, however, some notices merely state “to be set.”
If you do not go to your immigration court hearing, you may be ordered removed “in absentia.” This means that if the government establishes that you are removable, and the court believes that you had proper notice of the hearing date and time, you can be ordered to be removed (“deported”), without being present at the hearing or ever appearing before a judge. You may lose your right to contest the basis on which the government alleges you are removable or the opportunity to apply for immigration status that may be available to you. You should also not expect that you can reschedule your hearing date just by contacting the court or the immigration officer listed on your notice. Normal reasons for missing an appointment, such as car trouble, illness, lack of childcare, etc., may not be acceptable reasons for missing an Immigration Court hearing. Requesting that your hearing be rescheduled, which is referred to as a “continuance” typically requires that a document be properly filed with the court in advance of the hearing date.
Your Notice to Appear may include a Form I-831 Continuation Page, where it lists the allegations that the government believes gives them a basis to claim that you are removable or “inadmissible,” which means you are not eligible to be admitted into the United States.
If you have received a Notice to Appear, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately. Unlike in criminal courts, one will not be provided to you. There may be defenses available to you!
The attorneys at Tanner Law Offices can assist you or your loved ones in the process of defending against deportation. We are experienced in representing clients before the U.S. Immigration Courts. Please contact our office at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.