What to Expect at Removal Proceedings

B&W 150h

Author: Alexander D. Sanchez, Esq.
Date: September 15, 2016


Removal proceedings begin when the government issues a Notice to Appear (NTA). From the NTA, an Immigration Judge will evaluate whether to order your removal from the United States. Each NTA will contain charges for removability. For example, and NTA may allege that you did not maintain your student status and therefore violating terms of your student visa. Unless you admit the allegations, the government must prove its charges. Failure to prove these allegations should terminate the removal proceedings. The NTA will generally set a hearing date for when you have to appear in front of an Immigration Judge (IJ). Failure to appear will result in the IJ ordering your removal.

Master Calendar Hearing

A master calendar hearing is the first hearing in a removal proceeding. It is generally very brief and intended to introduce your case to the IJ. Most master hearings only last a few minutes. At this hearing you have the right to admit or deny the allegations. If you admit the allegations the IJ can order removal without any additional proceedings. If you deny the allegations, then the government must prove its allegations as true. Admitting allegations is tantamount to declaring you are guilty. If you are ordered removable that still does not mean you must be removed. There are many forms of relief from removal that may apply to your case. At this point the IJ may schedule a hearing to hear your (as the respondent) application for relief from removal. If you admit the allegations, then a merit hearing will be scheduled.

Merit Hearings

Merit hearings last much longer than Master calendar hearings. This is the opportunity for both the government (petitioner) and you (respondent) to submit evidence and arguments to the Immigration Judge (IJ). Testimony may also be taken at these hearings. Generally, at the end of these hearings the IJ will render a decision granting relief from removal or ordering your removal.


Both sides are given 30 days to appeal the IJ’s decision. While an appeal is pending the government cannot remove you, since an automatic stay will go into effect.