Got an NTA -- can I postpone my Immigration Court date?

If you can't appear for your immigration hearing, it's important to request a postponement rather than not showing up.

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QUESTION

I have been living in the United States for 20 years. I recently received a Notice (Notice to Appear) to go to Immigration Court, and my court date is next month. I am having surgery and I don't think I will be able to make it. Is there anything I can do?

ANSWER

First, you must make every effort to attend your hearing in immigration court on the date you are scheduled to appear. If you do not appear for your scheduled court date, you can be ordered removed from the United States. If, however, it is impossible for you to appear, you can request that your case be "continued" -- that is, postponed to a later date.

In order to make the request, you must file what is called a "Motion to Continue" with the immigration court where you are scheduled to appear. A motion is a legal document that must match various requirements set by the court and described in theĀ Immigration Court Practice Manual. It may be easiest to have an attorney prepare this for you. If you cannot afford a private attorney, many reputable nonprofit organizations provide free or low-cost legal services. Some may even work with you to find a pro bono (volunteer) attorney at a law firm. Check theĀ Immigration Court list of providers of low-cost immigration legal services.

The motion must be filed at least 15 days prior to your scheduled court date. A copy of the motion must be sent to whichever DHS ICE Chief Counsel's office is responsible for your case. You'll find the relevant names and addresses on the "Office of Principal Legal Advisor" page of the ICE website.

A judge may grant the continuance for "good cause" and for a "reasonable time." To show "good cause," your motion must explain in detail the reason you are unable to appear in court on the scheduled date. Acceptable reasons might include, the need for additional time to hire an attorney, having an immigrant petition pending with USCIS, hardship to a family member, or the need for medical treatment.

You must also provide a reasonable time frame within which you will be able to appear in court. It is best to provide an approximate date when you believe you will be able to attend your hearing.

If the continuance is granted, you will be given a new court date. If the request for continuance is denied, you will be required to appear in court on the date originally scheduled. If you do not appear, the immigration judge can order that you be removed from the United States.

by: Cheryl Geiser

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