What is a notice to appear?
The issue of a notice to appear (NTA) is notice to a person that removal proceedings has began against him or her. But removal proceedings begin when the notice to appear is filed in an immigration court (8 C.F.R. 1003.14). A notice to appear form I-862 is a charging document containing allegations against a person in removal or deportation proceedings. It alleges that the person is not a United States citizen, states the grounds under which the person is removable, and the specific law that supports removal.
The notice to appear may also state the date, place and time of the immigration court hearing for the person to appear before an immigration judge. However the notice of hearing may be sent in a separate letter.
It is very important that any person who has received a notice to appear tell the immigration court in writing of any change of address within 5 days of any such change so that they may receive notices from the court. Otherwise an immigration court judge may issue what is known as an in absentia order. If a judge makes an in absentia order against a foreign national it can be used by ICE to rapidly remove the foreign national from the United States without the benefit of a hearing. Avoid an in absentia order by showing up on time for court and notifying the court of any change of address.
The NTA also tells the foreign national of his or her right to an immigration attorney for representation or to answer any legal questions.
Not everyone who receives an NTA is arrested. But a person who is arrested by immigration must be issued an extra Form I-826 Notice of Rights and Request for Disposition. If you wish to stay in the United States to pursue your rights and apply for relief, you must not allow anyone to talk you into agreeing to the allegations and accepting voluntary departure. Preserve your right to a hearing before an Immigration Judge – tick the option to ask to have a hearing before an immigration judge.
Will I be put on a plane and physically removed from the United States when I appear at the immigration court?
No. This is often cited by some persons for their failure to appear at immigration court. The law does not allow a person coming to immigration court to protect his or her rights to be deported. The deportation process must be completed. Furthermore you have a right to an appeal to the BIA or to federal courts. One of the most important things to realize is that deportation is a process and it typically takes many months depending on how crowded an immigration court docket is. With appeals, the process can sometimes take years.
Do I need a lawyer?
Yes you do. Removal proceedings are one of the most serious consequences that an alien can face. This is especially so for an alien who has lived continuously in the United States for a long time such as more than 10 years. It is also a frightening experience for their United States family who are citizens or permanent residents. United States parents, spouse or children may also suffer extreme and unusual hardship from removal of their alien relatives. A person without an attorney may not have his legal rights protected. You can be assured that the government will have its attorneys working to get you deported. So lawyer up and protect your rights!
A lawyer will also help you to find the type of relief for which you are eligible and gather the right evidence (e.g. affidavits, court records etc.) necessary to support your defense and application for discretionary relief that will allow you to remain in the United States.
Conclusion – Pursue your legal rights before an Immigration Judge
The removal process can take years: removal does not happen overnight. Furthermore there are many defenses and relief from removal (e.g. cancellation of removal, withholding of removal, adjustment of status, asylum, registry etc) that may be available depending on the facts of your case. Seek legal counsel to know and protect your rights.