Notice to Appear

If the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (“ICE”) believes that a foreign national is deportable, ICE first issues a Notice to Appear (“NTA”) before an Immigration Judge.  If the person is detained by the immigration system, an immigration judge may hold a bond hearing to determine whether to release the individual.  The next step in the process is the Master Calendar Hearing to review the charges.  Finally, the Immigration Judge would hold an Individual Merits Hearing to determine whether the individual should be deported.


  • The NTA states the allegations and charges against the non-U.S. citizen, and serves as the official charging document that places a non-U.S. citizen in removal proceedings.  The NTA also lists the time and place the foreign national is required to appear before the Immigration Judge.  You should contact an immigration attorney promptly if you receive an NTA.  You will only be given a certain amount of time before you must appear before the Immigration Judge. Bond Hearing When foreign citizens are taken into custody, ICE has the option of releasing them.  If ICE does not release the person on bond, the foreign national may request a Bond Hearing before an Immigration Judge. At the Bond Hearing, the person must show that he or she is not a danger to the community and is not a flight risk.  The individual must also demonstrate to the court that he or she will attend all future immigration court hearings.

  • The Master Calendar Hearing is generally the first appearance in Immigration Court. The Master Calendar is a preliminary hearing to review the charges in the NTA before an Immigration Judge. The Immigration Judge will explain the person’s rights, such as the right to an attorney.  If the person is not ready to proceed at the Master Calendar Hearing, the foreign citizen may ask the judge for a continuance.  If there is “good cause,” such as the need to hire an attorney, most Immigration Judges will allow this continuance. If the person is ready to proceed at this Hearing, the judge will ask if the person agrees or denies the charges in the NTA as alleged by Immigration Service.  If the person does not agree with the charges, then the individual should deny the charges and ask the government to prove its case.  The Immigration Judge will determine if the foreign citizen is eligible for any form of relief, and set a date for the Individual Merits Hearing.

  • The Individual Merits Hearing is when the government must prove the charges alleged in the NTA. The foreign national may present testimony and witnesses to the Immigration Judge to convince the Immigration Judge that the person is eligible for relief and should be allowed to remain in the United States.  At the conclusion of the removal proceedings, the Immigration Judge will determine if the foreign citizen should or should not be removed from the United States.
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