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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Master Calendar Hearings

The first stage in the removal (deportation) of a foreign national is a Notice to Appear (NTA) at a Master Calendar Hearing.  The purpose of the hearing is not to reach a final decision on removal, but to obtain basic information about the case and create a schedule for it to proceed.  It also is an opportunity for the court to outline all of the legal rights available to the foreign national, including the right to answer charges, present evidence, examine witnesses and, if the respondent lacks counsel, make use of any free or low-cost legal service providers who may be available.

The Notice to Appear contains the date, time and location of the hearing, usually at least ten days later.  A foreign national (the "respondent") who receives a notice must attend in person, with or without an attorney.  Failure to attend, or even showing up late, can result in denial of an application and deportation "in absentia."  The respondent should bring the Notice to Appear and any official identification documents.  Family members can attend.

The Notice to Appear also contains allegations about the respondent's illegal status in the United States.  The respondent, with the help of an attorney if possible, should examine these allegations carefully and be prepared to deny them and correct any inaccuracies.

The Master Calendar Hearing itself is brief, though it may take hours for a case to be called.  When the respondent's name and Alien Registration Number are announced, the respondent and counsel, if any, appear before an Immigration Court Judge.  The court will generally provide an interpreter, if needed.

The judge may ask for basic information, such as name, address, and the languages the respondent speaks.  The judge then reviews the charges.  The respondent can deny some or all of the government's allegations and point out any factual errors regarding names, dates, places, or other details.  The respondent can designate—or refuse to designate— a "country of removal," i.e. where to be sent if deported.

The respondent can also state the basis of a claim for relief from removal from the United States.  These may include:

  • Asylum based on persecution in the immigrant's home country. 
  • Marriage to a US citizen.
  • Cancellation of removal for qualifying lawful permanent and non-permanent residents.
  • Adjustment of status from non-immigrant to a lawful permanent resident.
  • Voluntary departure.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge gives the respondent a deadline for submitting further applications or documents.  The judge may schedule another Master Calendar hearing for the case, or set a date for an individual hearing on the merits.  The respondent may ask for more time to retain an attorney, submit documents, or prepare for the next hearing.

If you have been notified that you will be subject to a Master Calendar hearing and are at risk of deportation it is imperative to hire an experienced immigration law attorney to protect your rights.  Call us for a consultation.


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