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What is a Notice to Appear (NTA)?

A Notice to Appear (NTA) is an official charging document that initiates deportation (removal) proceedings against a foreign national. An individual who is “served” with or delivered an NTA must appear before an immigration judge to face removal proceedings, a process which will determine whether he/she should be removed from the United States or allowed to remain in the United States legally.

An NTA contains important information related to an individual’s case, including: allegations of why the individual should be deported from the United States, the specified time and place the individual must appear before an immigration judge, and a list of any immigration laws that were allegedly violated. If the NTA does not list the date, time, and location of the individual’s first appearance, he/she will receive a Notice of Hearing separately. This initial meeting in the Immigration Court is called the First Master Calendar Hearing (MCH). An MCH is a short, preliminary hearing on immigration matters where the individual will meet the judge and government attorney to determine how his/her case will proceed. The purpose of the MCH is for the immigration judge to review the allegations against the individual, the individual to request relief from removal, and the judge to schedule important dates for the case. At the conclusion of the first MCH, another Notice may be issued for the next MCH or the final removal hearing. Therefore, it is important to review the NTA upon receipt for the specified date of the individual’s first appearance with the immigration judge. Failure to appear in court will cause the individual to give up his/her rights to apply for relief from removal.

The deportation process can be a very complex and lengthy procedure, especially since this new USCIS NTA policy is a dramatic change from more than a decade of consistent practice in the employment-based immigration system. Deportation proceedings are important and will determine whether an individual can legally remain in the United States or whether he/she will be removed and potentially barred from re-entering. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you speak to an immigration attorney if you have been served with an NTA.