Five Things To Know About Immigration Court Proceedings
Immigration law is complicated and it is always best to be represented by an experienced immigration lawyer who fully understands immigration law and procedures. The more you know, however, the better, so here are 5 basic things to know:
You Have The Right to an Attorney, But No Right to Be Assigned a Free AttorneyAlthough some jurisdictions provide individuals with a free immigration attorney to assist you, most do not and are not required to do so. You always have a right to hire an attorney, but, generally, you will have to do so at your own cost or find a free immigration attorney through a nonprofit organization.
You Generally Will Have At Least TWO Hearings: Master Hearing *and* Individual HearingGenerally, at your initial MASTER HEARING, you will answer the Government charges that seek to remove you from the US and ask the Judge for immigration relief. Although you may have more than one MASTER HEARING, you eventually will have your last hearing called an INDIVIDUAL HEARING (sometimes also referred to as a MERIT HEARING). An INDIVIDUAL HEARING is the opportunity for you to have your "day in court" where you provide testimony and evidence in support of your request(s) for immigration relief.
Most INDIVIDUAL HEARINGS end with the Judge issuing his or her Decision denying or granting your immigration relief.
Immigration Court Proceedings Are Generally Backlogged and So Take a Long TimeGenerally, unless detained, immigration court proceedings take at least several years. There are many new immigration judges being hired across the country to address the long delays, and, so, in some cases, the processing times between your first MASTER HEARING(s) and your eventual INDIVIDUAL HEARING may begin to be a year or less. Generally, however, most individuals are going to be in immigration proceedings for about two years or longer (and, in some cases, much, much longer).
Everyone's Case is Different and Controlled By Different Factor(s)Many cases may seem similar but are in fact different based upon one or several factors. Different judges also make different decisions even when addressing similar cases. And, so, it is impossible to predict how one's immigration court case will conclude.
The best you can hope for is to you put forth the strongest, best supported, and most credible case based upon the totality of all circumstances.
You Can Appeal Any Negative Decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (the "BIA")Hopefully, your case is successful. But, if not, you can appeal your decision to the BIA and it will determine if your Judge made any mistake(s). It is very important that the BIA receive your Notice of Appeal and any related materials in a timely fashion (generally, within 30 days of you receiving your decision denying your immigration court relief). Otherwise, you lose your right to appeal any negative decision that orders you to be removed from the US.