I Just Got an NTA … What Should I Do?


One of the scariest days of any immigrant’s life is the day when a Notice to Appear (NTA) comes in the mail. The NTA starts the process of the government, through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), attempts to remove the immigrant from the country. The government is claiming that the immigrant has violated the law, and is therefore subject to Removal or Deportation.

While this is a very scary situation, it is not the end of the world. There are a number of things an experienced Immigration Attorney could do to help you through this process. There are three main ways that an experienced Immigration Attorney can help you and they are Voluntary Departure, resubmitting a claim, or seeking relief from the court. I will discuss each possibility in turn.


Voluntary Departure:

Even the most experienced Immigration Attorney cannot get every single client to remain in the United States, but there are some ways of leaving the United States that are better than others. If you leave with Voluntary Departure, the immigrant leaves on his own terms, by a certain date set by the government. The immigrant may avoid the indignity of being placed in a detention center and having the government forcibly remove him from the country. Under favorable circumstances the government may waive certain bars that the immigrant might be subject to. For example, if the immigrant was in the United States illegally for a period of time, the immigrant may be subject to a bar, which prevents him or her from entering the United States for a period of time. In certain circumstances, an experienced immigration attorney can persuade the government to waive those bars, and open the possibility of the immigrant returning to the United States in a future date.


Resubmitting Forms:

Sometimes the immigrant has a legitimate application that was either denied or was not available to him until he reached the court system. In this situation an immigrant may have an avenue to proper status, but now has been put into the court system. The immigrant might have married a US Citizen, might have a relative become a US citizen, or a child who has reached the age of 21.

In this situation, there are two possible avenues to the immigrant’s case to be heard. In some cases, an experienced immigration attorney will ask the court to administratively close the case, and allow USCIS to handle the case, allowing the immigrant to file his case similar to immigrants not in the court system. This tactic is useful because the Immigration Courts are very backed up, and in some places to get an Individual Hearing (the trial at the Immigration Court) can take upwards of three years! So if USCIS can hear the case themselves, the immigrant could have their case heard in months instead of years.

The Court and the government are not always open to administratively closing cases. In these situations the best option may be for the immigrant to have a trial and put their application through the Court. This is not always a bad option, as judges are sometimes more sympathetic when listening to real people talk about real hardships of leaving the United States. In some cases this is preferable to presenting a case based on documents to a USCIS officer that may never meet the immigrant.


Relief through the Court:

Some waivers and Cancellation of Removal are options that are only available through the immigration courts.

Waivers can be had if there are certain criminal grounds that form the basis of the removal proceedings, or if there is an illegal entry. The attorney will have to prove that “Extreme and Unusual Hardship” will occur to the US citizen family of the immigrant if the immigrant was forced to leave the country. These rules are very complicated and children’s’ welfare is not always considered directly.

Cancellation of Removal is one of the hardest forms of relief an immigrant can ask for, and it is up to the discretion of the judge. Like a waiver, the immigrant is required to prove that “Extreme and Unusual Hardship” will occur to the US citizen spouse and/or US citizen children if the immigrant is forced to leave the country. Remember, the knowledge that the family might be forced to break up if the immigrant is forced to leave the country is not enough to show the necessary hardship. The hardship must be above and beyond what the normal family would suffer through the removal of one family member. It is important to discuss your specific case with an experience Immigration Attorney because he or she can help you develop a case for Cancellation of Removal. Some basic information that you need about Cancellation, the immigrant needs to be in the US for a period of 10 years prior to the issuance of the NTA, or 5 years as a Permanent Resident (having a Green Card). After that, each case is specific. Sometimes the attorney will focus on the family issues, why certain children or spouse need to stay in the country, due to health issues, etc. The attorney can also focus on the country that the immigrant is from and why it would be a real hardship to send US Citizens to that country. The attorneys at TNT Law will help guide you through the process of Cancellation of Removal and help you decide if it is right for you.

Lastly, there are rare cases where a client is a US Citizen and does not know it. While this sounds unbelievable, citizenship is obtained based on laws at a particular time. If you had a parent, grandparent, or great grandparent that lived in the US for a time it is possible they obtained citizenship. If they were a citizen they could have conferred that citizenship to their children and/or grandchildren. If this is the case we can help you prove this to the judge and it is the best route out of immigration court.

Many clients come to us and tell us of some friend they heard that was in the same situation as them and got a green card. Sometimes they refer to the latest immigration news of some “new law” that they heard will help them. Other times they want to use illegal immigration facts like an uninspected entry to obtain a US immigration marriage visa or some other US immigration visa like a work visa. Know that this area of the law has many unscrupulous practitioners that are lawyers and non-lawyers preying on easy targets. Always verify information that seems too good to be true. At our firm, we offer free consultations for clients that have an NTA. Call us for a free second opinion if you have received an NTA.

TNT Law Opening the Door for You

Written by Jonathan Gordon

©2011, Thomas N. Toscano, Esq. Mr. Toscano is a licensed New York attorney with offices in Glendale. 516-214-0473.