In immigration law, 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.  These may include grounds such as criminal charges or violations of immigration entry policies.  The Notice to Appear contains important information related to the person’s removal hearing. 

How Should a Notice to Appear be Delivered?

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

What Type of Information Should a Notice to Appear Contain?

All persons being summoned to appear for a removal hearing have a “right to notice”.  This means 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 tot removal
  • The time and place the person should appear before an immigration judge. 
  • A list of any immigration laws that were allegedly violated

The person should report to the immigration court as described in the NTA.  This first meeting in the immigration court is called the “First Master Calendar Hearing”.  It is always recommended that the person being summoned make their appearance at the removal hearing with an attorney being present. 

What if There Was a Defect With a Notice to Appear?

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 (for instance, if it was served through fraud or deceit). 

For instance, 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. 

On the other hand, if the person simply ignores a validly delivered NTA, it could lead to further consequences.  The immigration court may proceed to issue a ruling without the person being present.  This is called a ruling “in abstentia”, and may be very 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, as it signals the beginning of the process.  If you or a loved one needs help with an NTA, you may need to hire a qualified immigration lawyer in your area.  Your attorney can assist you if you have any questions, and can represent you during the removal process.