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What Happens During Removal Proceedings?

When you are first notified that you have been put into removal proceedings, it can be terrifying.This article will give you an idea of what to expect during a typical removal proceeding.

Notice to Appear (NTA)

Removal proceedings are commenced upon the service of a document called a Notice to Appear, upon the immigrant.   Even if an immigrant is picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detained in jail by ICE, the removal proceedings do not officially begin until the immigrant is actually served with the Notice to Appear. The Notice to Appear (NTA) will identify the immigrant’s biographical information, such as their name and country of origin, as well as the reasons as to why the government believes that the immigrant should be removed from the United States. It will typically state the immigrant’s date and manner of entry into the Untied States and the violation of their immigrant status (for example, if they overstayed a visitor’s visa or committed a crime). The NTA should also list a place, time, and date for an initial hearing where the immigrant is required to appear before the immigration judge.

Master Calendar Hearing

The hearing date listed in the Notice to Appear is referred to as the immigrant’s Master Calendar Hearing. The Master Calendar Hearing will be the immigrant’s first hearing before the Immigration Judge.   The immigrant and his or her attorney will respond to the charges of removability as listed in the NTA at a Master Calendar Hearing. The immigrant will be required to tell the Judge which portions of the NTA are true or false. The immigrant and his attorney will then have the opportunity to tell the Immigration Judge why they think the immigrant is not removable or what relief he or she may be eligible for to prevent him or her from being removed from the United States. The Judge will then typically give the Immigrant another date for an additional Master Calendar hearing to file documents to apply for the relief requested, or to update the Judge on the immigrant’s status. The immigrant can have several Master Calendar hearings. The immigrant is not typically ordered to be removed at a Master Calendar hearing. Once the immigrant’s case is ready to be tried by the Judge, the immigrant will be scheduled for a final, Individual hearing, which is also called a Merits hearing.


Immigrants who have been picked up by ICE and who are currently being detained by ICE, will have their Master Calendar hearing in the prison where they are being detained.  During this hearing, they can request bond.  If they are granted bond and pay the bond, they will be released from custody and his or her hearing will be scheduled at a different immigration court where immigrants are not detained.  If the immigrant does not appear at the next hearing, they will be ordered to be removed and they will not be reimbursed the bond.  If bond is not granted, then the immigrant will continue his or her removal proceedings while remaining in ICE custody.

Individual Hearing

The individual hearing (or Merits hearing) is the hearing where the immigrant and his attorney present all of their evidence to prove their eligibility for relief from removal proceedings.  They can also bring in family, friends or expert witnesses to testify as to the grounds for relief and/or the immigrant’s good moral character.  The government attorney will present evidence of the immigrant’s alleged violations of immigration law and present their evidence as to why they belief that the immigrant should be removed from the United States.

Once all of the evidence and testimony has been presented to the Judge, the Judge will make a decision as to whether or not the immigrant should be allowed to remain in the Untied States or whether the immigrant should be removed from the United States.


The Immigration Judge will either enter his decision on the record at the end of the Individual hearing or, he will end the hearing and issue a written decision which will be sent to the immigrant in the mail.  If the immigrant is detained in ICE custody during the removal proceedings, the immigrant will remain in custody until a decision is made.  If the government attorney indicates that they plan on appealing the Judge’s decision, the immigrant will remain in custody until either the appeal period has run, the government attorney decides prior to the end of the appeal period that they will not in fact appeal the Judge’s decision, or if the government does appeal, then through the duration of the appellate process.

The attorneys are Tanner Law Offices, LLC are experienced in removal proceedings. We have represented clients before various Judges within Pennsylvania and surrounding jurisdictions.  We can assist you in assessing your case and determining which avenues of relief from removal proceedings may be available to you. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation to discuss the specifics of your case at 717-836-0471