| Read Time: 4 minutes | Immigration Law
master hearing immigration court

When the US government concludes you are in the country without authorization or violated the terms of your status, it may place you in removal or deportation proceedings.

These proceedings are how the government determines whether non-US citizens have the legal right to come to or stay in the US. One of the first steps in the process is the master calendar hearing, or master hearing, in immigration court. The master calendar hearing is your first chance to declare why you should not be removed from the country.

Being scheduled for a master calendar hearing can feel overwhelming. Many noncitizens do not know where to begin when faced with dense legal terms and the potential upheaval of their lives.

The dedicated immigration attorneys at EMP Law are here to help. We have extensive experience in removal and deportation defense, helping noncitizens evaluate their options, and designing a defense strategy that works for your situation.

Please call (336) 724-2828 or send us an online message today for assistance.

Before the Master Calendar Hearing

To schedule you for a master calendar hearing, the government must have a reason to conclude that you are in the country without legal immigration status or that you violated the terms of your status.

The government provides the reason in the Notice to Appear (I-862), which also serves as formal notice that the government is opening removal or deportation proceedings against you. The government may provide you with the notice in person or by mail

The Purpose of the Master Calendar Hearing

Master hearings “are held for pleadings, scheduling, and other similar matters.” In other words, the master hearing is where the government informs you about the removal process and gives you a chance to respond.

You schedule the next step in the removal or deportation proceedings and declare what legal claims you have to stop the government from removing you.

At the Master Calendar Hearing

Usually, the master hearing begins with the judge informing you of your rights during removal or deportation proceedings, including:

  • Your right to be represented by an attorney;
  • The availability of free or low-cost legal services;
  • Your right to present evidence in your defense; 
  • Your right to examine the government’s evidence; and 
  • Your right to cross-examine government witnesses.

The court ensures you understand your Notice to Appear, with an attorney for the government explaining the reasons behind the notice.

You then have the chance to tell the government why you should not be removed. 

Some defenses to removal include the following:

  • Qualifying for a green card. You may be able to stay in the US if you qualify for a green card, and one is currently available. Often, this is true of people who are married to a US citizen.
  • Asylum. You can apply for asylum if you have a credible fear of persecution in your home country based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
  • Withholding of removal. If the judge concludes you do not qualify for asylum but that deporting you would threaten your life or freedom, they can “withhold” removal.
  • Convention Against Torture (CAT) protection. If you are more likely than not to be tortured if returned to your home country, the judge must defer your removal under the international CAT. 
  • Cancellation of removal. Your removal can be canceled if you meet certain criteria. For example, you may show that you have been physically present in the US for ten years or more, you have good moral character, you have not been convicted of certain offenses, and your removal would result in “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” a spouse, parent, or child who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

After you enter your pleadings, meaning you admit or deny the charges in the Notice to Appear and tell the court why you should not be removed, the court schedules your next hearing and sets deadlines. The master hearing is usually quick, often lasting between five and twenty minutes, depending on the circumstances. 

How to Prepare for a Master Hearing in Immigration Court

The best way to prepare for a master calendar hearing is to hire an immigration attorney. Discussing the details of your case with them will allow the attorney to decide how to respond to the charges against you. Your attorney will handle most of the technical aspects of preparing for the hearing in consultation with you.

Ensure you know where the hearing will take place, and request an interpreter if needed. On the day of the hearing, arrive early and dress in professional attire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who Attends the Master Calendar Hearing?

The noncitizen the government has charged with being removable or deportable, the noncitizen’s attorney, an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security, and an immigration judge attend the master hearing.

Can You Be Deported at a Master Calendar Hearing? 

You generally cannot be deported at a master calendar hearing. The only way to be deported based on a master calendar hearing is if you do not attend. If you fail to show, you can be ordered removed “in absentia” without a chance to respond to the charges against you.

What Happens After the Master Calendar Hearing?

After the master hearing, you will have an individual hearing where you can present your defenses to removal.

An Experienced Immigration Lawyer Can Help You Prepare

Navigating the US immigration system is complicated, even when you are not facing the pressures of removal. The laws surrounding immigration are dense and complex, and it can be difficult to know what to do when you are scheduled for a master hearing in immigration court.

The immigration attorneys at EMP Law are passionate about helping our clients understand their options and working with them to put together the best defense to removal or deportation.

Reach out online or call (336) 724-2828 today to learn more about how we can help you.

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Helen believes in providing caring, thoughtful and thorough representation for each and every person. In particular, Helen focuses on helping individuals navigate the maze of rules, procedures and processes created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and those facing criminal charges or deportation.

Author Photo

Emily provides bilingual, trauma-informed immigration legal services to clients throughout the United States and abroad. Her practice focuses on family-based immigration, humanitarian immigration options, and deportation defense. Emily is fluent in Spanish, and is admitted to practice before the Eastern, Middle, and Western Federal District Courts of North Carolina, as well as the Fourth and Fifth Circuit Courts of Appeal.

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