Facing immigration proceedings can be a scary and daunting prospect. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can help ease anxiety.

What types of hearings are there before the immigration court?

There are two types of hearings (not including bond hearings), master calendar and individual calendar hearings. Your first court date will be a master calendar hearing. If you do not have an attorney at your first court date, the judge will likely give you a continuance so that you can obtain one. Many other cases will be heard at the master calendar hearing, so expect to see many people in the courtroom.

Once all preliminary matters are disposed of, and if you qualify for a form of relief, the immigration judge will give you your own court date. This date is called an individual calendar hearing. No other cases would be heard during that hearing time.

Arriving for your First Hearing before the Immigration Court

On the day of your master calendar hearing arrive on time. If you are coming from out of town, you should arrive the night before. When you arrive at the courthouse, you will have to go through security, so give yourself extra time. Typically, master calendar hearings are heard on a first-come basis so the earlier you arrive, the earlier you may be heard. Also, people who have attorneys will typically be heard first.

What happens at the Master Calendar Hearing?

At the master calendar hearing, you and your attorney will meet with the judge and the government attorney. The judge will review the ‘Notice to Appear’ (NTA). The NTA is a ‘charging document’ in which the government lays out why they think you are deportable. The NTA will also contain facts such as your name, country of origin, manner of arrival, date of arrival, and relevant criminal convictions. You and your attorney will have the chance to answer or contest any of the facts contained in the NTA. If you challenge one of the facts, the immigration judge may give you a continuance to collect evidence or investigate the issue. If you need an interpreter, the court will provide one to you for free.

Lastly, if you qualify for a form of relief, the judge will give you a date for an individual calendar hearing and also a date for when documents are due. Pay close attention to when documents are due as you could lose your chance to fight your case if you do not submit documents on time.

How to Prepare for the First Hearing before the Immigration Court

First and foremost, you should obtain an attorney. An attorney will be able to explain the process to you in detail and also evaluate your case to see if you qualify for any forms of relief. Second, be honest with your attorney. Your attorney is your advocate and cannot divulge any of your personal information to anyone. Third, if you do qualify for a form of relief work with your attorney to try and get an application prepared for the master calendar hearing.

If you have an upcoming hearing in immigration court, we encourage you not to delay, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and who knows how to fight these cases! Please contact our deportation defense attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC at 510-488-1020 to see how we can defend you today!