Understanding Removal Proceedings: Immigration Legal Guidance

Removal Proceedings

If you are living in the US or entering the state, but your immigration status still hasn’t been sorted out, chances are that you might be threatened by removal proceedings. For those who already received their “Notice to Appear,” it’s vital to understand how the process works, how an immigration attorney can help, and what you can do to ensure your relief status.


This guide will deal with all these important matters since a single mistake in this whole process (such as failing to appear upon notice) might result in deportation. As a respondent, you will receive a Notice to Appear, initiating the court immigration process, and from there, the matter of your legal stay in the US will be at stake. Let’s check all the details together to ensure you’ve understood the magnitude of the situation and how to cope with it.

What Are Removal Proceedings?

Removal proceedings are commonly known as a court process for the deportation of illegal immigrants from the US. It usually happens for two reasons — either you’ve applied for asylum in the US, or you’ve been taken into custody by state officials without proper paperwork.


If you are wondering how to seek asylum in USA, you should also consider the chance of getting rejected for asylum, in which case a removal proceeding would be initiated against you. So, the reasoning for court processing here is twofold — you can get rejected for asylum and sent to the immigration judge, or you could apply for asylum while in the middle of court proceedings as a defensive process. 


In any case, you would be applying for asylum to the immigration judge, and it’s done in the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in the US Department of Justice. In any case, there are two options you can take from this point on. You will either be granted asylum in case of court proceedings relief, or you can fill out the I-589 application for asylum and for withholding of removal. 


In the latter case, you would still not get approved for papers and a green card but would be allowed to stay in the country legally. Because of these few options, it’s essential to understand how to deal with the process as soon as you get your Notice to Appear. 


Anyhow, you need to prove your innocence according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is set in motion to prevent illegal immigrant activities. That’s why the Immigration and Nationality Act is on your side if you prove to be a valuable contributor to society and get your court case dismissed to prevent deportation.

Types of Hearings in Removal Proceedings

As soon as you receive a Notice to Appear, you’ll either be scheduled for a hearing, or the date may be set before you receive the note from the Department of Homeland Security. In case that happens, you will be excused for not showing up, but you need to follow up on your situation since a new term will be assigned. 


There are two types of hearings involved in court proceedings — Master Calendar hearings and Individual Calendar hearings. 

Master Calendar Hearing

If your application for asylum has been turned down, the Master Calendar hearing is the first event you’ll face in court during removal proceedings. It’s like a pre-trial hearing in other court cases, which means this is when you can hire an asylum lawyer or an immigration attorney to represent you.


It goes down on a date determined by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is submitted to you via the notice we discussed earlier. If your date says “TBD”, that means you won’t have to show up right away but will probably receive another notice with a date on it pretty soon. 


Now, back to the point — it’s best to hire an asylum attorney for the Master Hearing since it’s more of an administrative pre-trial hearing, so you don’t get to build your case fully just yet. An experienced attorney will know the drill since these are pretty short, and a judge will usually allow the case to proceed to your individual hearing, where the case can be represented.


While you are represented by your own attorney, the US Department of Homeland Security has its own attorney in the courtroom. While attorneys discuss the case and the proceedings, you also get to ask questions to the judge, or your lawyer can do it instead. The main point here is to either admit or deny your allegations, usually related to your removability. The judge will inquire about the type of relief you seek at this stage.

Individual Calendar Hearing

As a result of the Master Calendar hearing, the judge will ask you whether you wish to submit an application for asylum or go for cancellation of removal. At this stage, the second date for Individual Calendar Hearings will be determined, and you can get a judge if you still haven’t by this point.


It’s vital to know that the state is not responsible for assigning a judge to you like in criminal court, so you have to get one at your own expense. During the Individual Calendar Hearing, you can plead guilty or not guilty to charges. 


This is the official court process known as “trial” in other cases, which means you need evidence and witnesses at this stage. If you can afford an asylum immigration lawyer, this is where it’s crucial to do so. You’ll usually have at least nine months from the Master Hearing to the trial, so in that time, you can collect evidence in the form of photos, records, and affidavits proving your innocence. We know this is easier said than done, but under US immigration law, you must build your case around human rights.


If you can prove that your rights and freedoms are endangered in case of deportation to your homeland, or if you would face persecution for political, religious, race-backed, or any similar reasons, you would have a chance of getting the proceedings cancelled. 

How To Seek Asylum In Usa

Motion to Terminate Removal Proceedings 

In case you file a motion to terminate the removal proceedings or a judge decides to terminate the case, you will never have to worry about deportation again. The case is dismissed fully from the court in this case, which means you are getting relief.


Since it’s a form of a written legal document, it’s best to leave it to your asylum lawyers to craft the motion to terminate. Usually, the decision to terminate the proceedings happens if you have grounds to apply for DACA or a working visa or if you have any ground-based chance of getting a green card.


You can get a termination decision with or without prejudice. In case of a motion to terminate the removal proceedings without prejudice, the government is able to re-initiate the process further down the road.

Notice of Hearing in Removal Proceedings

In case your asylum application has been rejected, or if the case has been initiated against you, removal proceedings start with a notice of hearing. It’s vital to show up in front of the judge in case you receive the notice. Otherwise, an immigration judge can simply rule deportation and close the case because you weren’t able to make it to the hearing.


It’s important to note that you can go through the Master Calendar Hearing via telephone if the judge allows it. As mentioned, these are short hearings that last from 10 to 20 minutes, and in most cases, it’s possible to use a phone line to contact the immigration judge and the DHS-assigned attorney together with your attorney. 


In some cases, you might be required to go through the second Master Calendar hearing to compile additional information. While that can also be done via phone, you have to show up in person for your Individual Calendar hearing, and failing to do so could result not only in an asylum ban but also in a decision to deport you to your home country. 

Motion to Terminate Removal Proceedings Based on Approved I-130 Petition

If you have a relative with a legal status in the USA, you can use it to fill out the I-130 Petition form, which allows someone to help a qualified relative sort out the living status in the USA. You would need your relative to sign the document to confirm their relationship with you and vouch for your eligibility or significance in terms of country contribution to help you qualify for termination of removal.


They will need to help you fill out the I-485 form and sign the I-130 petition to qualify for early dismissal of the case, even without it reaching the designated hearing date. There are two possibilities that could unfold from this point. If the USCIS approves your petition, the judge may be able to approve your removal termination. Precisely, USCIS becomes responsible for your migration status. Or, the immigration judge could file a request to keep the jurisdiction over your case in immigration court.


Based on ICE and immigration judge rulings, your I-130 form could even be revoked even if granted by the USCIS. So, getting the form approved is just your first step towards getting the proceedings terminated.

Duration of the Termination Process

The time necessary for the immigration judge to terminate your removal proceedings varies from a few weeks to a few months or even up to 9 months or longer. It’s impossible to place a time stamp on it since it depends on several factors, including the following:


  • Case priorities of the court
  • Caseload
  • Procedural requirements
  • Communication with the DHS lawyers and authorities


On top of all that, the US immigration law allows USCIS and ICE to delay your case due to a low priority rating, which makes the termination process even longer. Even in case of an administrative closure, based on procedural discretion, they can re-open your case again, which isn’t a possibility in case of complete termination and dismissal.


In other words, challenges to removability in prosecutorial discretion occur if your case is administratively closed when the judge rules in favor of ICE, USCIS, CBP, and DHS. If your case is administratively closed, you will be able to apply for a working visa and your removal procedure will at least be stopped until further notice.

Asylum Immigration Lawyer

Legal Assistance and Support

While it’s not in your application for asylum benefits or your rights in the removal proceedings process, you should get an immigration attorney if possible. As mentioned, the state isn’t obligated to assign one to you, so you’d need to do it at your own expense. 


However, it’s the best option to have your immigration attorneys file termination requests in your name and represent you during Merits Hearings and Master Calendar Hearing processes. They will be able to tell you exactly how to collect evidence and which documents you need, and having a well-versed attorney speak to the immigration judge greatly helps your case when compared to doing it yourself.


Overall, removal proceedings are pretty severe, but it’s possible to turn the tables around with the right education and approach. You can also simply search “asylum lawyer near me” to get recommendations on the best immigration lawyers in your area and increase your chances of getting a relief court call.


Make sure to always show up on time for your hearings and provide the necessary evidence and witnesses, if plausible, to help your case. Consider I-130 forms if you have a ground-based reason and a relative who could help you obtain the green card.


Q: What should I do if I receive a Notice to Appear in immigration court?


If you receive a Notice to Appear in immigration court, you should check the date for your pre-trial hearing. If it is scheduled, you need to show up on the given date or attend by phone if you previously agreed with the judge. If the date is to be determined, you will receive another notice with an exact date later.


Q: Can I apply for any immigration benefits during removal proceedings?


Yes, you can apply for benefits during removal proceedings if your residential status has been adjusted or if you have a relative to help you fill out the I-130 form.


Q: What happens if I miss my scheduled hearing?


If you don’t show up for your scheduled hearing, the judge will likely rule the case against you, and you will receive a deportation notice.


Q: How can I check the status of my removal proceedings case?


You can check the status of your removal proceedings case by visiting the official site of the US Government’s Department of Justice.


Q: What does “terminated without prejudice” mean?


Terminating without prejudice means that your case has been dismissed, but the government still has the right to re-open the case in the future.


Q: How long does a master calendar hearing usually last?


The master calendar hearing usually lasts around 10 to 20 minutes at most, and it can often be done via mobile phone.


More Posts

Schedule Your Legal Advice Now


Need legal advice as soon as possible?
Contact us now and get the professional help for your case