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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article will discuss the Notice To Appear (NTA), what information the document contains, and what to do next. We will cover the following topics:

  • What is a Notice to Appear (NTA)?
  • What is the Nature of Proceedings Section in an NTA?
  • The factual allegations of an NTA
  • Understanding the charges of removability
  • Administrative information in the NTA

When you receive a Notice to Appear (NTA), your initial response might be to panic. But it's crucial that you understand what the notice means and the information it conveys, especially if you had no reason to expect one.

What Is A Notice To Appear?

A Notice to Appear is the legal document that initiates removal proceedings against an individual. Receiving an NTA means that you must appear in Immigration Court on a specific date or a yet to be determined date in the future.

Generally, there are three ways you can receive an NTA:

  1. The NTA is served on you personally (by hand).
  2. The NTA is mailed to your last known address.
  3. The NTA is mailed to your lawyer's last known address.

The immigration court handling your removal hearings will also receive a copy of the NTA.

Under U.S. immigration law, at least ten days must pass between receiving the NTA and the first scheduled hearing. You have the option to bypass the ten-day waiting period, which can be beneficial if you're being held in the custody of immigration officials. 

Once the NTA is in your hand, you (and ideally your lawyer) should carefully review the document's contents for mistakes and understand the allegations against you. Depending on the charges listed in the NTA, you may be eligible for immigration relief, but you must apply by a specific deadline set by the Immigration Court.

What Is The Nature of Proceedings Section In An NTA?

The Nature of Proceedings section indicates which of three general immigration statuses applies to you. Under your biographical information, the NTA lists three different statements; they are:

  • You have been admitted to the U.S. but can be removed for the reasons stated below. Those that fall into this category entered the United States lawfully and were allowed to stay for a specific period, usually on a nonimmigrant visa or green card. They are deportable because they have overstayed their visa or committed a crime.
  • You are an arriving alien. This category covers those that have been stopped at a port of entry (usually a border crossing or airport) and have yet to be admitted to the United States.
  • You are an alien present in the U.S. who has not been admitted or paroled. Those in this category entered the U.S. without interacting with a border agent or immigration officer.

The notice will come with one box checked off. You need to confirm that the correct box is checked. If there is a mistake, you must provide evidence in Immigration Court to prove you were classified incorrectly. Those who enter the U.S. unlawfully have fewer options for adjustment of status (getting a green card) than those admitted or paroled.

The Factual Allegations of An NTA

The NTA will list all the facts of your deportation case. Typically, the factual allegations will include:

  • You are a native and citizen of your home country;
  • You are not a citizen or national of the United States;
  • Information concerning the date and location you entered the U.S., whether your entry was authorized, and the time you were allowed to stay in the U.S.; and
  • The alleged reasons why the U.S. is seeking your removal.

The factual allegations will form the foundation for the charges of removability listed in the next portion of the NTA. At what is usually your first hearing in immigration court proceedings — The Master Calendar hearing— you will have to provide a formal admittance or denial of each factual allegation.

Understanding The Charges of Removability

The charges of removability section describes the immigration laws that the government alleges you violated and the official charges levied against you. As in the factual allegations section, at the Master Calendar hearing, you or your attorney must admit to the charges or deny them. Remember, these are the reasons why the U.S can legally deport you. You and your attorney must understand all the reasons listed and the evidence you're aware of that supports or refutes the allegations.

If you accept the charges, the court will move forward with your removal. If you deny the charges of removability, the judge schedules a Contested Merits Hearing. At the Contested Merits Hearing, you, or your lawyer, will argue your case and present the legal reasons refuting your removal from the United States. The attorney for the government will make his or her case against you.

If the judge rules in your favor, the removal proceedings end, and the charges are dropped. If the judge rules against you, he or she sustains the removal charges, and you will have to prepare a defense from removal and apply for removal relief if you are eligible. Conversely, you can accept the judges ruling and be deported. 

Administrative Information In The NTA

There will be more information at the bottom of the NTA, such as the date, time, and location of the Master Calendar hearing. If you forget the date and miss the hearing, you will likely be "ordered removed in absentia." If this happens, you give up your rights to apply for relief from removal. At that point, you have few options to avoid deportation.

The removal should also include some important legal information, such as your rights to representation, what happens if you fail to appear for a hearing, your obligation to notify the court of address changes during removal proceedings, and your duties should you receive an order of removal.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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