An Overview of Removal Proceedings in the Immigration Court

Removal Proceedings are commenced by the filing of a Notice to Appear. After the filing of a Notice to Appear, the Immigration Court has jurisdiction to determine if a person can be ordered removed from the United States. The Immigration Court is a part of the Executive Office of Immigration Review. Immigration Proceedings before the Immigration Court are adversarial in nature. The opposing parties are the Department of Homeland Security (also called "DHS" or the "Department") and the person the DHS is trying to remove (the Respondent). The DHS is the successor to the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and references to the INS should now be replaced by the designation DHS.

Immigration Court proceedings consist of at least three parts which normally require at least three separate court dates though the number can, in some instances, be reduced to two. Immigration Court proceedings can go on for years.

The first part of the proceedings is the Pleading phase in which the respondent admits or denies the factual allegations being made by the DHS and denies or concedes the charged ground of Removability. A good discussion of the pleading phase is contained on our Notice to Appear page.

The second part of the proceedings is the Removability phase in which the DHS must prove any denied allegations and the ground of Removability. The concept of Removability encompasses two separate ideas: deportability and excludability. See Removal/Deportation/Exclusion, generally for a discussion of these three topics.

The third part is the Relief phase in which a Respondent may present evidence of eligibility for any forms of relief from the charged ground of Removability. The most common forms of relief are termination of proceedings, LPR Cancellation, 212(c) relief, non-LPR cancellation of removal, adjustment of status (which includes Re-adjustment of Status), and Asylum/Withholding/Torture Convention.

In the case of detained aliens, a bond hearing will also be held at or prior to the pleading phase. Bond eligibility is discussed on the mandatory detention page.

At the conclusion of the proceedings before the Immigration Court, the Respondent or the DHS may accept the decision of the Immigration Judge or appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (the BIA). The Board of Immigration Appeals does not conduct evidentiary hearings and merely resolves legal issues.

The Respondent or the DHS in certain instances may seek review of adverse decisions in the Federal Courts.

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