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Foreign nationals who have a deportation order in the US must attend a Master Calendar Hearing, as this is where they will learn their legal rights and options.

If you are waiting for your first hearing, do not be alarmed or think that it is the end of your stay in the United States. 

Immigrants have the help of the immigration lawyers in New Jersey at Curbelo Law. Call us immediately, as time is critical in these processes.

What Is A Master Calendar Hearing In The United States In 2024

A Master Calendar Hearing is the first hearing that an immigrant has in an immigration court in the United States. This marks the usual start of efforts to deport an immigrant from the country.

During those hearings, the judge will:

  • Explain the charges against you, and 
  • Inform you about your rights. 

If you are not prepared for the hearing, you can ask for more time, but you must do it during this session. 

appeal immigration decision

When the case starts, the judge will determine if you will be deported. If you wish to appeal your immigration decision, you must present your request at this hearing. Failure to do so will result in you being issued a deportation order or required to leave the country voluntarily.

General Process That The Immigration Judge Usually Follows

Now that you know what a Master Calendar Hearing is, we show you the steps that the judge usually follows in these hearings:

  1. Read all the rights of the immigrant.
  2. Inform the immigrants of all the charges against them.
  3. Designate a deadline for the next hearing.
  4. Indicate what has to be done during the established time. 

Remember to dress appropriately at your first appearance. The key is to look as formal as possible.

It is also advisable to arrive 30 minutes early. This window will allow you to anticipate any delays caused by traffic or finding parking.

Who Is Present At A Master Calendar Hearing?

At the first hearing, the following individuals must be present:

  1. The immigrant. It is essential that they are present at their hearing, because they are fighting against their deportation.
  2. A government attorney. Also known as a prosecutor and argues in favor of the immigrant’s deportation.
  3. An immigration judge. The judge will be the one who decides if the government can deport the immigrant from the United States.

What Does The Immigration Judge Decide At The Master Calendar Hearing?

Most immigrants fear that by attending the Master Calendar Hearing they will be deported from the United States. However, at this hearing the judge does not make any final decision about your deportation.

During the hearing, the judge ensures that the immigrant is informed about the charges against them and the procedures to follow to respond to them.

immigration court hearings

How To Prepare For The Master Calendar Hearing?

It is very important to prepare well for a Master Calendar Hearing. Below we show you several aspects to take into account:

1# Work With An Immigration Lawyer 

It is crucial to have the advice of an experienced immigration attorney before going to your hearing. A qualified professional can thoroughly evaluate your case, identify potential obstacles, and provide strategies to represent you effectively.

Our attorneys Curbelo and Lieberman have the experience necessary to help you navigate these immigration issues. Call us, because in these processes time is a determining factor.

2# Gather All Records

Gather all relevant documents that support your case. This may include:

  • Evidence of your family relationships: If you are applying for family-based status, make sure you have strong evidence of these connections.
  • Completed forms: Ensure that all required forms have been completed thoroughly. 
  • Financial documents: If financial stability is relevant, submit bank statements and other relevant documents.
  • Employment evidence: If employment is an important factor in your case, gather evidence of your current or potential employment.

3# Get Familiar With The Possible Questions

Do your research and prepare in advance for possible questions the immigration judge might ask during the hearing. 

These could cover details about your history, your reasons for seeking status, and other specific aspects of your case. 

Therefore, prior preparation will help you respond with confidence and consistency.

If you are lost in this regard, contact our team as it does not commit you to anything and can guide you in your case.

4# Practice Your Statements

Practice the statements you plan to make during the hearing. Of course, make them clear, concise and focused on the key aspects of your case. 

Importantly, avoid rambling or providing irrelevant information.

5# Get Organized Beforehand

Organize your documents logically and coherently so you can easily access them during the hearing. 

Prepare an orderly presentation that highlights the most important points of your case.

preparing for the master calendar hearing

6# Always Stay In Communication With The Lawyer

Before the hearing, communicate any changes or updates to your attorney. 

Also maintain open communication to make sure you are both aligned on the details of your case.

What Happens In a Master Calendar Hearing?

Generally, to attend the Master Calendar Hearing, the defendant is provided sufficient time to obtain legal representation and prepare. 

This is usually a minimum of 10 days between service of the Notice to Appear (NTA) and the initial hearing, unless an immediate hearing is requested. 

After this, the following general steps are usually followed in these hearings: 

1# Entrance To The Courtroom 

Although there are several rooms in the court, the national foreigner’s hearing notice will indicate the number of the room to which they must go.

2# Wait For The Immigration Judge To Quote Your Number

At these hearings, there may be a large number of immigrants waiting to be called. 

The courts identify each foreigner by means of a number. When it is the individual’s turn, the judge or court clerk will summon them through their number and ask them to come to the front of the courtroom.

3# Confirmation Of Name And Address 

One of the immigration judge’s first actions is to confirm the name and current address of the alien. 

This is crucial to ensure that the immigrant does not miss future hearings, as failure to do so may result in an automatic deportation order.

4# Reading The Available Rights

The immigration judge will inform the immigrant about their rights, such as:

  • Apply for relief from deportation.
  • Present evidence in your favor.
  • Have an immigration lawyer.
  • Present your own witnesses and question government witnesses.
  • Appeal the judge’s decision.

5# Review Of The Charges Against You

The law requires the judge to read all charges brought against the foreigner. These charges, which justify the deportation process, are detailed in the notice of appearance.

6# Decide What Type Of Immigration Relief You Are Seeking

After reviewing the charges, the judge determines if the immigrant is eligible for any type of immigration relief. Among the most common defenses against deportation are:

  • Cancellation of removal.
  • Asylum.
  • Immigration waiver 212(c).
  • VAWA visa.
  • Adjustment of status under a family member or for refuge.
  • U Visa or T Visa.
  • DACA.
  • Protection of the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
  • Voluntary departure.

7# Find A Lawyer

  • If the aliens don’t have an attorney, the judge will ask them if they need time to find one. 
  • If the immigrant requests it, a new hearing will be scheduled to give them time. 
  • At the next hearing, the immigrants must appear with their lawyer.

8# Obey The Dates Of Hearings And Presentation Of Additional Evidence

Once the judge has decided on the type of immigration relief the immigrant can qualify for, dates are scheduled for the presentation of additional evidence. 

In some cases, the immigrant must indicate a country for removal proceedings.

Background Check And Security Investigation

For certain requests for exemption from deportation, DHS conducts background and security investigations, pursuant to 8 CFR § 1003.47

In non-covered reliefs, these investigations are not necessary, but may warrant an extension for DHS to complete them. 

For more detailed information, consult our professionals. 

Asylum Clock

If the immigrant applies for asylum, the asylum clock becomes an important factor. 

After 180 days, the applicant may be eligible for employment authorization if they have not caused delays.

Postponements And Continuations

The judge may postpone or continue the hearing as necessary, especially if you are in the process of gathering more evidence or more time to obtain legal representation.

9# Leave The Court At The End

After concluding the Master Calendar Hearing, the foreign nationals may leave the court, having received clear instructions on the next steps and important dates for their case.

What Happens If I Attend the Master Calendar Hearing Without An Attorney?

If you go to a Master Calendar Hearing without an attorney, don’t worry, as the judge will give you the opportunity to find one.

In fact, the judge will ask you if you need time to look for a lawyer. If you answers affirmatively, you will be asked how much time you think you will need to find one.

immigration court judge

If you have not yet gotten a lawyer for the second hearing, you should explain to the judge:

  • The steps taken to find one,
  • The reason why you didn’t find it, and
  • How much more time do you think you need to find it?

If the judge thinks there are good reasons, they may give you more time and schedule another date for a new hearing. Otherwise, the case will continue.

What Documents Should I Present?

For your first appointment, it is essential that you bring your notice of appearance and the documents provided at the border. 

If you do not have your NTA, you can request a copy from the judge.

If you will be applying for asylum, it is important that you have all your documents in order, especially the following:

  • Passports or other identification documents.
  • Form I-94.
  • Original certificates of birth, marriage or other documents.
  • Copy of Form I-589 along with any additional materials previously submitted.
  • Certified translation of any document that is not in English.

What Happens If I Do Not Attend The Master Calendar Hearing?

If you do not attend your immigration hearing, the judge may issue a deportation order in your absence. Therefore, it is crucial that you appear in court.

In the worst case, if you do not attend, you will receive a deportation order. However, by attending the hearing, you will still have the opportunity to appeal the decision.

In the best case scenario, if you attend the hearing, you can get more time in the United States and even win the right to remain in the country legally.

What Are Appeals Like?

Both you and DHS have the option to challenge an immigration judge’s decision in a higher court. 

Once the judge communicates a decision, they will ask you and your lawyer if you want to reserve the right to appeal or waive it. 

If you decide to reserve the right to appeal and lose the case, you must file your forms with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within 30 days of the hearing. If you don’t, the judges will not consider your appeal and you will lose that right.

Am I At Risk Of Deportation At The Master Calendar Hearing?

Generally, you cannot be deported during a Master Calendar Hearing. In fact, the only way they can order your deportation at this hearing is if you don’t show up. 

If you do not attend, you may receive a deportation order “in absentia” without the opportunity to defend yourself.

How Long Does A Master Calendar Hearing Last?

Master Calendar Hearings are usually short. You typically spend 5 to 20 minutes in front of an immigration judge. However, you should keep in mind that:

  • The wait time in court may be extended by a few hours.
  • This is because judges often schedule multiple foreigners to attend the Master Calendar Hearing on the same day and time.
  • As a result, you may have to wait in the courtroom for a significant amount of time until it is your turn to go before the judge.

What Happens After The Master Calendar Hearing?

After this hearing, you will have an individual hearing in Immigration Court where you can present your defenses against deportation.

What Is The Difference Between A Master Calendar Hearing And An Individual Hearing?

The main difference is that the Master Calendar Hearing is just a pre-trial hearing, while the individual hearing is where the trial takes place. 

In other words, individual hearings are where it is decided whether the foreigner will be deported or not.

How Can I Communicate With The Immigration Judge If I Don’t Know How To Speak English?

There is no need to worry if you do not speak English, as most courts provide interpreters. Additionally, you have the right to request one who speaks your language. 

If you bring your own interpreter, they must meet certain requirements. During the hearing, you should listen to the interpreter and wait for them to finish before responding in Spanish (or any other language), as hearings are recorded to ensure accurate recording.

Special Considerations When Requesting Asylum

If you are seeking asylum, you must select a country for removal other than your place of origin. Additionally, you will have to apply for withholding of removal and seek relief under CAT if you apply for asylum.

Please note that you may be placed in an expedited removal program. This means that your hearing will take place within 180 days from the date you submitted your asylum application. 

You may choose to waive this expedited process to have more time to prepare your case. Of course, during this period of time, you will not be allowed to work. 

Contact Our Immigration Law Firm

Now that we have seen what a Master Calendar Hearing is, it is essential that you find an immigration attorney to help you. At Curbelo Law, we have professionals who are experts in these matters.

Our firm is dedicated to serving immigrants facing removal proceedings, a notice to appear or any type of immigration process.

If you have received a notice to appear at Master Calendar Hearing, call us today so we can begin studying your case and determine the strongest legal defense possible.