If you are an immigrant in the state of Massachusetts and have any sort of problem with your visa, application for asylum, or residency, you may find yourself on the docket of the Boston Immigration Court at the JFK Federal Building on Sudbury Street. It’s important you understand how this court works and how you can protect your rights.

Immigration courts are special administrative courts created by the United States Dept. of Justice (DOJ.) There are currently 58 immigration courts scattered across the country, including the one in Boston.

If you receive a Notice to Appear in this court, it means that either your application for asylum was rejected or there are other grounds for deportation, such as criminal charges. Your first appearance in court will be on the Master Calendar Hearing docket. At this hearing, you will hear the cause of action against you and why the government is trying to order you removed from the United States. If you have any doubts about when your court date is, you can call the court hotline toll-free at 1-800-898-7180 or locally at 617-565-3080. The clerk who answers won’t discuss your case but can help you with the time, location, and directions to get to court.

If you need help understanding English, the court must provide a certified interpreter for you. Don’t rely on a friend to interpret or accept someone like the court clerk as an interpreter. You have a right to someone who can translate the proceeding for you.

Prior to your first court hearing, strongly consider consulting with an immigration attorney licensed in Massachusetts and familiar with the procedures and workings of the Boston Immigration Court. Immigration law in Massachusetts is complicated and it is important your case is presented as best as possible with the help of an attorney.

At the Master Hearing, you’ll get a court date for your next appearance, often and Individual Hearing date. At this time, the judge will decide on whether or not you’ll be ordered removed from the United States. You will be able to present your defense, relief from removal, and ask to stay in the United States. It is very important that you talk to an immigration attorney before this hearing for several reasons:

1) The court interpreter can only help translate the proceedings in court.  He or she can’t talk to you about your legal issues.

2) Immigration law isn’t black and white. A skilled Massachusetts immigration attorney will have a working relationship with the government’s lawyer and can discuss your case and possibly work out an arrangement to delay or prevent your deportation.

3) The Boston Immigration court is busy, crowded, and confusing. There are dozens of cases a day. Potential deportation is stressful enough without having to navigate the complicated government procedures. Your lawyer can make sure you are in the right courtroom and can give you help on everything from what to say to what to wear.

4) There are several defenses against deportation. Only your lawyer is qualified to know which one fits best with your circumstances and has a good chance of succeeding. The right lawyer can help you succeed and teach you how the U.S. Immigration system works.

While you can go to the Master Hearing alone, the time to talk to a lawyer is as soon as you get your Notice to Appear. The more time your attorney has to prepare, the better chances you may have. Call our office and speak to an immigration attorney who is licensed, skilled, and experienced in practicing in the Boston Immigration Court.