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New Notices to Appear Policy Affects Millions of Legal Residents

New Notices to Appear Policy Affects Millions of Legal Residents

In June of 2018, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated their policy concerning NTAs (notices to appear). An NTA is a document that informs an immigrant that they are required to appear before an immigration judge on a specific date. It is, in fact, the first step in the process of removing and deporting a legal immigrant.

While NTAs have always been a part of the immigration process (as well as deportation), the new resolution broadens the scope of NTAs and establishes a wider range of reasons why one can be issued. These include when:

  • There is evidence of fraud
  • There is evidence of criminal activity
  • The applicant is denied an immigration benefit and is unlawfully residing in the U.S.

Fraud here also extends to perceived misuses of public entitlements.

What Are the Implications of This Policy?

The new policy makes the process more difficult for immigrants. While many people may not readily see the inherent problems in this, it is largely because the terminology is caught up in Orwellian language that obscures more than it reveals. For instance, an NTA is not simply a notice to appear before an immigration judge. It begins the process of deportation. By increasing its scope, many lawful immigrants are being denied legal residency for a broader range of reasons. It also makes it easier for USCIS to issue NTAs directly.

Before the issuance of this memorandum, USCIS referred matters to ICE. ICE would investigate a foreign national who was suspected of fraud or other criminal activity and render a determination on whether or not that foreign national deserved to be deported or not. Under the new memorandum, USCIS no longer has to consult with anyone before issuing an NTA.

In addition, an individual whose legality as an immigrant was in dispute could have left the country voluntarily while the situation sorted itself out one way or the other. Once an individual is served with an NTA, they must remain in the U.S. to face an immigration judge. If they fail to show up, they will have an immediate deportation order filed against them and be barred from re-entry into the United States for the next five years.

How This Policy Harms Lawful Residents

The NTA is not anything more than the issuance of a document to begin deportation proceedings. There is no oversight in how or why it can be issued, as there was before. While an individual might ostensibly remain in the U.S. to contest the NTA, they will be considered unlawfully present during that period of time. If they win their case, they may have their former status restored and the black mark on their record purged, but if they lose, they may be barred from entry into the U.S. for the next 10 years.

This could even happen to H-1B professionals whose employers file for an extension.

Luis F. Hess Can Help

There are still ways to contest an NTA. An experienced immigration attorney can petition a court to evaluate the process by which USCIS initiated deportation proceedings. We will ensure that your documents are filed as soon as possible to avoid your I-94 from expiring. We can also petition the court to promptly adjudicate your case to prevent long periods of being unlawfully present. Contact us for more information.