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Many people wonder what a master calendar hearing is and that is why we are going to give you the answer along with other key elements that you should know about.

If you are waiting for your first hearing, do not be alarmed or think that it is the end of your stay in the US. Aliens 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 an alien has in an immigration court in the United States. This hearing marks the usual beginning of efforts to remove an immigrant from the country.

  • The purpose of the master calendar hearing is for a judge to ask the alien a few questions. In addition, they inform them of their rights in court and schedules an upcoming hearing.
  • Also, during that hearing, the aliens and their lawyer have the opportunity to demonstrate a first impression before the court regarding their case.

General Process That The Immigration Judge Usually Follows:

  1. Read all the rights of the immigrant.
  2. Inform the aliens 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. 

It is recommended that the immigrant arrive on time for this hearing, dress appropriately, and be respectful at all times. 

The national foreigner can bring their relatives to the master calendar hearing if they wish. However, it will be up to the immigration court to decide whether the family members can enter the courtroom or must wait outside.

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Foreigners often do not know if they are in deportation proceedings. To understand this, we invite you to enter our article: How do I know if I have a deportation order from the United States?

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 hearings, since they are fighting against their deportation.
  2. A government attorney. Also known as a prosecutor and argues in favor of the deportation of the immigrant.
  3. An immigration judge. The judge will decide whether or not the government can expel the alien from the United States.

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

The vast majority of aliens worry that by going to the master calendar hearing, the judges will remove them from the US. However, at this hearing the judge does not make any final decision regarding your deportation.

In this hearing, the judge only makes sure that the aliens are aware of the existing charges against them and the guidelines to follow to respond to these charges.

immigration court judge

How To Prepare For The Master Calendar Hearing?

It is very important to prepare for a preliminary immigration hearing (a master calendar hearing). Therefore, please review the following elements to take into account:

1# Work With An Immigration Lawyer 

The best thing a national foreigner can do in these cases is to work with an immigration attorney. An attorney will give you the best chance to fight removal from the US.

  • In addition, national foreigners who have a lawyer are 5 times more likely to request immigration relief against deportation. This is compared to foreigners who do not have an immigration attorney.
  • Our attorney Carolina T. Curbelo has more than 10 years of experience in these immigration matters. Therefore, immigrants will be in the best possible hands. 

2# Gather All Records

Typically, immigrants’ cases depend on their criminal and immigration records. For this reason, the following factors should be taken into account:

  • When did you come to the United States?
  • If you have a visa.
  • The type of US visa that you had or have.
  • When did you leave the US?
  • If you were ever arrested.
  • If you suffered a sentence for a crime committed.
  • The length of your sentence.

Aliens who attend the master calendar hearing must gather all the documents or records related to their criminal and immigration records.

Immigration laws often intersect with criminal laws and when this occurs, it is known as “Crimmigration”.

3# Review The Charges

The charges against the national foreigner are found in the document “ notice to appear”. The alien must review it carefully to find out if the allegations shown are correct.

Sometimes immigration officers can be wrong. Therefore, if an error is detected, it may be possible to stop the deportation.

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On our blog, we have an article called “Stay of deportation”. This request in some cases can help aliens to delay their deportation. To know this topic well, we invite you to read this publication.

4# Plan Transportation In Advance

It is very important to double check the time and address to the immigration court. National foreigners should arrive early to ensure they have enough time to pass through security before the scheduled time. 

  • If they do not attend the indicated date or arrive too late, the immigrant may be removed from their hearing.
  • If an immigrant is withdrawn from this hearing, it means that they will be ordered deported without being given another opportunity to appear before an immigration judge.

5# Plan Child Care

Although relatives from abroad can accompany you to your court, it is usually best not to bring the children. If a child is disruptive in court, the immigration judge may order the child removed from the courtroom.

6# Dress Appropriately

National foreigners must attend the preliminary hearing dressed in a professional or appropriate manner. It is recommended that you treat this matter as if it were a job interview.

What Happens In Master Calendar Hearing Court?

As we have explained previously, the master calendar courts have 2 objectives to fulfill:

  1. Guarantee that the aliens understands why they are in deportation proceedings and the measures they can take.
  2. Determine a time limit for the next steps in this process to be performed.

Next, we will explain in detail the steps that are carried out in a master calendar hearing:

immigration court hearings

1# Entrance To The Courtroom

Although there are several rooms in court, the foreign court notice will tell you the number of the room to go to. 

2# Wait For The Immigration Judge To Summon Your Number

At these hearings, there may be a large number of immigrants waiting for the immigration judge to call them. The courts identify each alien by a number.

Then, when it is the individual’s turn, the judge or designated court clerk will summon you through your respective number and ask you to come to the front of the room.

3# Confirmation Of Name And Address

Usually among the first actions by an immigration judge is to confirm the name and current address of the alien. 

Immigration judges are very interested in knowing the current address of aliens to ensure that they will not miss any hearings in the future.

If a national foreigner loses a court hearing, they will automatically receive a deportation order.

4# Reading Of The Available Rights

The immigration judge will read the immigrant their available rights. These are:

  • Apply for relief from deportation.
  • Submit evidence in your favor.
  • Have an immigration lawyer.
  • Present your own witnesses and ask questions of witnesses provided by the government.
  • Appeal the decision of the immigration judge.

To learn more about appeals, check our blog on how to appeal an immigration decision.

5# Review Of The Charges Against You

The law requires the immigration judge to read all charges against the alien. These charges are the legal grounds for which the US government wants you deported.

The government cannot deport a national foreigner for no reason, since it needs a legal basis to do so. The charges against the national foreigner are included in the notice of appearance.

preparing for the master calendar hearing

6# Decide What Type Of Immigration Relief You Are Seeking

After evaluating the charges listed in the notice to appear, the immigration judge determines if the immigrant is eligible for any type of immigration relief. Among the most common types of relief are:

Among the applications for asylum, there is asylum based on domestic violence. To delve into this topic, you can find its proper publication on our blog.

7# Find A Lawyer

In early immigration court, the immigration judge usually asks aliens who do not have an attorney if they would like time to get one. 

  • If the national foreigner does not want additional time, then the judge will continue with the process.
  • In case the immigrant needs additional time to find an immigration lawyer, the judge will schedule a date for the next hearing. 
  • At the next preliminary hearing, the alien must bring their immigration attorney.

8# Follow The Hearing Dates And The Dates For The Submission Of Additional Evidence

Once the immigration judge has made a decision regarding the immigrant’s qualifying form of relief, the judge will schedule the dates for the submission of additional evidence.

  • If necessary, the immigrant must indicate a country of expulsion.
  • After the hearing is concluded, the alien may leave the court.

What Happens If I Go To The Master Calendar Hearing Without A Lawyer?

Often, it can be difficult to find a good immigration lawyer to represent a national foreigner. Therefore, sometimes you need:

  1. Enough time to find one, or
  2. Enough money to pay for one.

Aliens who attend their second hearing without a lawyer should be prepared to explain to the judge why they do not have one. Usually, the following should be explained to the judge:

  • The steps taken to locate an immigration attorney.
  • The reason why one has not been hired.
  • How much longer do you think you need to locate a lawyer?

If the judge considers that there are good reasons, they may grant the foreigner more time and schedule another appointment for a new hearing.

On the other hand, the judge can continue with his case and ask the aliens to answer the charges against them, even if they do not have an immigration attorney.

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

Failure to attend a hearing will result in the alien receiving a deportation order in absentia. Therefore, this is the reason why you should always attend court.

  • In the worst case, you will still get a deportation order, whether you miss the hearing or lose it.
  • However, going to court allows the national foreigner to appeal their case. In the best of cases, the alien may be able to get more time in the US and may even be able to earn their right to stay permanently in the country.
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Are you undocumented and would like to be legal in the US? You may be able to do it. Read our article on how can an illegal immigrant become legal in the US for further information.

Am I At Risk Of Being Deported At The Master Calendar Hearing?

Another of the great concerns of immigrants is that they believe that by attending the master calendar hearing they will be arrested and deported. As a result of this fear, many times they simply decide not to attend court.

  • The truth is that aliens will not be arrested if they attend the first court hearing.
  • In addition, if a judge decides to give the immigrant a deportation order in the first court, they will not be arrested or expelled from the country. Therefore, the immigrant will still have the opportunity to appeal this decision.

We emphasize that in master calendar hearing courts, only the cause for which the US government wants to deport the immigrant is known. Additionally, it is also where you get the opportunity to respond to the charges filed.

How Long Does A Master Calendar Hearing Take?

Preliminary hearings are usually short. Typically, these hearings take between 5 and 20 minutes in front of an immigration judge. However, you should keep in mind that:

  • Waiting time in court may be extended by a few hours.
  • This is because judges often schedule several national foreigners to attend the master calendar hearing on the same day and at the same time.
  • As a result, national foreigners may have to wait in the courtroom for a significant amount of time until it is their turn to go before the judge.

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

You already know what a master calendar hearing is and perhaps you have also heard about an individual hearing.

The main difference is that the preliminary hearing is just a pre-trial hearing, while the individual hearing in immigration court is where the trial takes place. In the individual hearings it is where it is decided if the national foreigner will be deported or not.

Special Considerations When Applying For Political Asylum

If an alien is applying for asylum in the US, there are certain elements to consider when addressing this issue at the master calendar hearing. Beforehand, it is recommended that you have an immigration attorney represent you. 

  • First, the immigration judge will ask the immigrant to designate a country of removal. It is advised that no country be designated. 
  • This is because the basis of the asylum application is the fear of returning to the country of origin, so the country of origin should never be designated.
  • If you apply for asylum and accept “expedited removal,” the individual merits hearing will be rescheduled within 180 days after the asylum application is filed. 
  • It should be noted that this may not allow enough time to prepare the asylum application in detail and supporting documents.
  • However, if expedited deportation is waived, the immigrant will not be eligible for employment authorization while their application is being processed by the Immigration Court.
  • If the immigrant is detained, they will be placed in an expedited removal program and will not be able to waive this.

Contact Our Immigration Law Firm

Now that we have seen what a master calendar hearing is, it is essential that you find an immigration lawyer to help you. At Curbelo Law, we have the lawyer Carolina Curbelo, an expert in these cases.

  • Our firm is dedicated to serving immigrants who are facing a deportation case, a notice to appear or any type of immigration process.
  • At Curbelo Law, our team of professionals never hesitates to take on the most complex cases, having been successful in the majority of deportation cases.
  • Carolina Curbelo has extensive knowledge of US deportation proceedings and legal reliefs to avoid them.

If you received a notice to appear at an immigration master calendar hearing, call us today so we can begin looking into your matter and determine the strongest possible legal defense.