If you recently received your first “Notice of Hearing” from the immigration court, here’s what you can expect and how to prepare yourself for your master calendar hearing.
What is a master calendar hearing?
A master calendar hearing is the first hearing a person has in immigration court. The purpose of a master calendar hearing is for the judge to ask you a few questions, to tell you your rights in court and to schedule your next hearing. It is also a time when you and your attorney (if you have one) get a chance to make a first impression on the court as it relates to your case. Needless to say, the initial master calendar hearing is an important one.
What will the immigration judge ask me during my master calendar hearing?
During your master calendar hearing, the immigration judge will do the following:
- Ask whether you received a “Notice to Appear.” You should have received this form in the mail or from an immigration officer. Your Notice to Appear will tell you the reasons why the government thinks you should be deported.
- Verify the information in your Notice to Appear is correct and explain the allegations listed in the Notice to Appear. If the information is correct, the judge will ask you to admit or deny the allegations. This is referred to as “taking pleadings.” It is helpful to speak with an attorney before you plead to any of the allegations in the Notice to Appear.
- Ask if you have an attorney. If you do not have an attorney, the judge may ask if you would like time to find an attorney before you plead to the allegations.
- Explain what rights you have in court, including the right to present evidence and to have an attorney.
- Ask if you plan to apply for any forms of immigration relief, which means any application that will allow you to remain in the United States. These applications include asylum, cancellation of removal, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and others. An attorney can help you to know whether or not you qualify.
- Schedule the next hearing and give you deadlines for filing any applications with the court.
How long will my master calendar hearing last?
Master calendar hearings are usually very short. You will likely only spend around 5 to 20 minutes in front of the immigration judge. Although the hearing is short, you should still plan to be at the court for a few hours. Immigration judges often schedule many people to come to a master calendar hearing on the same day and at the same time. This means that you may be in the courtroom with many people and may wait a while for your turn.
How should I prepare for my master calendar hearing?
- Plan your transportation ahead of time/Show-up!. Double check the time and address of the court, and arrive early to make sure you have time to get through security before your scheduled hearing time. Early is on time. If you miss your hearing or are late for your hearing, you may be removed in absentia, which means you will be ordered deported without receiving another opportunity to appear before the judge.
- Dress professionally. Treat it like a job interview.
- Plan childcare. While you may bring family members with you to court, it is generally best to leave your children with a babysitter. If a child disrupts the court, the immigration judge will likely ask that the child be taken out.
- Assemble evidence. Bring any documents you received from immigration officers at the border or in the mail and bring them to the hearing. Also bring identification documents, like a passport or driver’s license, any other documents that may be relevant to your case, and a pen and paper to write down any deadlines or instructions from the immigration judge.
- Contact a lawyer. While you are not required to have a lawyer in court with you, people who have a lawyer are 5 times more likely to file an application for relief and are 5 times more likely to win their case than those who do not. A lawyer can tell you whether you should admit or deny the allegations in the Notice to Appear and help you figure out which applications you qualify for
Preparing for your master calendar hearing can be nerve wracking. If you or someone you know has an upcoming master calendar hearing, contact one of our offices for a free consultation with an attorney who specializes in deportation cases. We offer free telephonic and video consultations at our offices in Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, and San Francisco, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Salt Lake City and Orem, Utah; and Boise, Idaho.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Carly Huchendorf is an associate attorney for Wilner & O’Reilly in the Salt Lake City office. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from J. Reuben Clark Law School in Provo, Utah and was admitted to practice law in Utah in 2019. During her time in law school, Ms. Huchendorf was awarded the John S. Welch Award for Outstanding Legal Writing, the Distinguished Clinical Practice Award, and the Faculty Award for Meritorious Achievement and Distinguished Service. She also interned for the Seattle, Washington and Florence, Arizona immigration courts, and worked as a legal fellow for the BYU Community Legal Clinic, where she provided free legal services to low-income community members.
Prior to joining Wilner & O’Reilly, Ms. Huchendorf worked as an Attorney Advisor for the Salt Lake City, Utah immigration court. In that position, she researched and drafted decisions on behalf of the immigration judges regarding complex deportation cases. Ms. Huchendorf speaks Spanish and English.