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What Are Immigration Proceedings?

What Can You Expect?

Immigration Court

Immigration proceedings are the United States government’s first steps to remove an immigrant from the country. Immigration proceedings are used to make lawful permanent residents (LPRs) deportable for violating the terms of their status, committing crimes, or failing to comply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They are also used to remove individuals unlawfully present in the United States. If you’re facing immigration proceedings, here’s what you should know.

What Are Immigration Proceedings?

U.S. immigration proceedings are an immigration court process in which an immigration judge decides whether an immigrant should be allowed to stay in the United States.

Immigration proceedings are sometimes called removal proceedings or deportation proceedings. If the immigration judge finds that an immigrant should not be allowed to stay in the United States, they will issue an order of removal that leads to deportation.

How Do Immigration Proceedings Work?

Immigration proceedings begin when someone is suspected of committing a deportable act such as being in the United States without status or committing a crime. The first step is receiving a notice to appear before the immigration court. You’ll arrive on your hearing date and time with your immigration lawyer to begin your case. 

The court will begin discussing your immigration case and explain why they intend to remove you from the country. The judge at your immigration court hearing will listen to the lawyers representing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and your legal team as they explain both sides of the story. 

Immigration proceedings will continue until a decision has been reached. It may take years before a judge’s decision is issued in your case. Immigration proceedings have a tendency to be lengthy, and cases where an immigrant doesn’t pose a potential threat to society tend to get pushed to the backburner. 

Do You Have To Go to Immigration Court?

Some people don’t attend immigration court because they fear deportation. However, not attending immigration court can lead to deportation very quickly. If you were notified of your hearing date and failed to appear, the court can issue an order of removal in absentia. That means you’ll be deported without an opportunity to explain your situation in court. 

Do You Need an Immigration Attorney?

You need an immigration attorney for removal proceedings. Your immigration attorney will represent you during immigration court proceedings. They will present evidence to the judge that helps your case. The earlier you begin working with an immigration attorney, the more time your attorney will have to help you build a defense and avoid removal proceedings.

Individuals have the right to an attorney in criminal proceedings if they cannot afford one. Immigrants in removal proceedings do not. You’re responsible for hiring and paying your own attorney, and the government won’t provide legal advice or aid. 

Can You Appeal a Decision Made in Immigration Court?

You may be allowed to remain in the country despite a decision made against you in immigration court.

If the court issues an order of removal, you have the option to file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). If your appeal is successful, you may be granted the right to stay in the country or have your case sent to the Immigration Court for further proceedings. If your appeal is denied, a final order of removal will be issued, and you can be deported based on the BIA’s decision. 

Appeals are difficult. It’s important to work with a competent attorney who has a wealth of experience in immigration law. Skilled immigration attorneys understand how complicated and nuanced the situation can be, and they have a thorough knowledge of what the immigration courts need to see and hear during immigration proceedings. 

Can You Avoid Immigration Proceedings?

The only way to avoid immigration proceedings is to avoid circumstances that may jeopardize your status in the United States. 

Don’t Commit a Crime or Provide False Information To USCIS

Criminal convictions can lead to loss of your immigration status if you aren’t a naturalized U.S. citizen. 

If it’s found that you’ve intentionally misrepresented information to USCIS to increase your chances of getting a green card or being granted a visa waiver, USCIS will consider your answers fraudulent and begin removal proceedings. 

It’s important to be honest on all of your paperwork. If you aren’t sure how to answer honestly, ask a lawyer to help you fill out your USCIS petition.

Cautiously Protect Your Status When You Travel

If you intend to leave the country for an extended period, you should get a re-entry permit. Even if a re-entry permit isn’t required for your stay (like spending several months back home), it’s better to have a re-entry permit in the event that unforeseen circumstances prevent you from returning to the U.S. You can’t get a re-entry permit while you’re abroad. You need to apply for it while you’re still in the United States.

If you’ve already left the country for an extended period of time, you may need a returning resident visa (SB-1 visa) before you return to the United States. A returning resident visa requires you to show you did not abandon your residence and are re-entering the country with the intention of permanently staying.

Opt for Voluntary Departure

You can skip immigration proceedings by agreeing to leave the country and give up your status through voluntary departure. It’s only the right choice if you’re certain that you would rather return to your home country and continue to live there permanently or if you’d rather immigrate to another country. If you fail to depart, there are bars to returning to the United States for which there are no waivers. 

Do You Need Help With Immigration Proceedings?

If you’ve received a notice regarding immigration proceedings or if you have reason to believe you’ll receive a notice soon, you need to hire a lawyer as quickly as possible. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation about your immigration case. 


Access to Counsel in Immigration Court | American Immigration Council

board of immigration appeals | American Bar Association

Part J – Fraud and Willful Misrepresentation | USCIS

Returning Resident Visa (SB-1) | YouTube


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