Immigration laws affect citizens of other countries who are entering and living in the United States. Immigration laws control activities associated with:

  • How to get a visa in order to remain in the United States;
  • The process through which an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen; and
  • Deportation.

Different types of visas are available depending upon your purpose for being in the U.S. In general, these types are divided into two main categories: non-immigrant, temporary visas; and, permanent visas. A green card is a permanent visa which allows the holder to enter, exit, work, and live in the United States for life.

Green cards are generally available to:

  • Close relatives of US citizens;
  • Refugees;
  • Preferred employees; and
  • By lottery.

You may also gain entry to the U.S. on a temporary visa that is issued for:

  • Visiting;
  • Working; or
  • Going to school.

It is important to note that the U.S. may deny your request for a visa if you have a history of:

  • Terrorist or criminal activities;
  • Drug abuse; and/or
  • Disease.

Additionally, even if you have a visa, you can be deported if you commit a crime. This is further discussed below.

In order to become a citizen of the United States you must be a permanent resident of the US for five years, as well as pass a citizenship test. Citizenship through this naturalization process guarantees the full rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen, and as such cannot be denied by the government.

What Is Deportation?

Removal, formerly known as deportation, is the legal process which removes a non-U.S. citizen from the United States and transporting them back to their country of origin.

A non-U.S. citizen may be subject to removal for various reasons, such as:

  • Failing to obey the terms of their visa;
  • Committing marriage or green card fraud; or
  • For being convicted of a criminal offense. The most common reason for removal is generally due to a violation of an immigration law.

However, there are many instances in which the grounds for removal may be improper or incorrect. Such matters will require a non-U.S. citizen to prove why they have a legally valid reason to remain in the United States. Additionally, there are some situations in which a non-U.S. citizen who is at risk of being removed from the United States may qualify for an exception or a waiver of removal.

If a non-U.S. citizen is removed from the United States, they may not be able to return for a period of 10 years or longer, depending on the circumstances. They could potentially face other consequences as well.

As such, if you are a non-U.S. citizen who is in danger of being removed from the United States, you should consult with a local immigration lawyer for further advice. A lawyer can help to protect your rights as an immigrant, and can determine whether any defenses, waivers, or exceptions may apply to your specific case.

Some of the most common grounds listed for deportation include:

  • Abusing or Developing an Addiction to Drugs: A non-U.S. citizen who abuses or has become addicted to drugs may be removed from the United States. A nonpermanent resident may also be removed if they have been convicted of more than one drug-related offense while in the U.S.;
  • Committing Green Card Fraud: A non-U.S. resident who commits fraud, or enters into a fraudulent marriage with the intent to deceive an immigration officer in order to obtain a green card, may be subject to removal from the United States;
  • Failing to Obey the Terms of a Visa: Non-U.S. residents must obey certain requirements and conditions when they are temporarily living in the United States on a visa. Failing to comply with any of those requirements or conditions will be grounds for removal. An example of this would be how an immigrant who moves to a new residence in the United States must notify the USCIS within 10 days from when they officially changed their address. Failure to do so could result in removal;
  • Collecting Public Assistance: A non-U.S. resident who requires public assistance from the U.S. government within five years from the date that they first arrived, can be removed from the U.S. The exceptions to this would be if they can show that they qualify for an exception, or under one of the waiver conditions;
  • Being Convicted of Certain Crimes: A non-U.S. citizen who has been convicted of specific crimes may be subject to removal from the United States. Some examples of crimes that may be grounds for removal if a non-U.S. citizen is convicted include:
    • Crimes of moral turpitude;
    • Aggravated felonies;
    • Domestic violence offenses;
    • Crimes that involve the trafficking of drugs, humans, and/or weapons; and/or
    • Crimes that involve sabotage, treason, sedition, and/or espionage against the United States; and/or
  • Violating Immigration Laws: A non-U.S. citizen who violates immigration laws, such as lying about their immigration status or remaining in the country after their visa has been revoked, may be removed from the United States.

Because some of the grounds contained in the above list may be subject to waivers or exemptions under certain circumstances, it may be in a non-U.S. resident’s best interest to consult a local immigration attorney for further advice on such matters.

What Is A Notice To Appear?

In an immigration law context, a “Notice to Appear” (“NTA”) must be sent to any person who will be under review for a removal hearing. Removal hearings determine whether there are sufficient grounds for removal, such as those that were previously discussed. The Notice to Appear contains important information associated with the person’s removal hearing.

The removal proceedings generally begin when the NTA is “served” or delivered to the non-citizen. This can either be in person or through standard mail; immigration laws only require that the NTA be delivered to the person in a manner that is both “proper” and “timely.”

All who are being summoned to appear for a removal hearing have a right to notice, meaning that they should be informed of key information related to their case. This is done through the Notice to Appear, which should contain information such as:

  • A description of the allegedly illegal conduct for which the person is being subject to removal;
  • The time and place in which the person should appear before an immigration judge; and
  • A list of any immigration laws that were allegedly violated

The first meeting in the immigration court is called the “First Master Calendar Hearing,” and it is always recommended that the person who is being summoned make their appearance at the removal hearing with an attorney being present.

If there was a defect with a Notice to Appear, it could affect the outcome of any immigration court determinations that follow. This may also be true if there was a defect in the way that the NTA was served upon the respondent, such as if it was served through fraud or deceit.

An example of this would be how if the NTA stated incorrect charges of criminal activity, it may require that the ruling of the case be reviewed or appealed. This could lead to a suspension of removal while the case is being reviewed further.

However, if the person simply ignores a validly delivered NTA, it could result in further consequences, such as the immigration court proceeding to issue a ruling without the person being present. This is called a ruling “in absentia,” and is generally unfavorable for the respondent.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With A Notice To Appear?

The notice to appear is one of the most important documents in a removal case. If you or a loved one needs help with an NTA, you should hire a qualified immigration lawyer in your area. Your attorney can represent you during the removal process, and will inform you of your various legal rights and options.