Immigration law in the United States can be confusing and sometimes difficult to understand– but we are here to help you to learn a little more about this process! This article will give you background information and help answer some basic legal questions you may have (click on the question below to go to the answer):
- How do I Check the Status of My Case in Immigration Court (when do I need to go to court)?
- What is the Difference Between going to an ICE check-in and going to an Immigration Court hearing (EOIR)? [only for children who have already turned 18 years old]
- What is my A-Number?
- What is Asylum?
- What are my rights?
Remember: This article only provides general legal information and is not legal advice. You and your sponsor should talk to an attorney about your specific case to better understand what forms of relief you are eligible for.
1) How do I Check the Status of My Case in Immigration Court (when do I need to go to court)?
It is important that you frequently check the status of your case in immigration court (at least 1 time each week), so that you know the date, time and location of your next hearing. Sometimes the date and time of your hearing will change, so you need to check often to make sure you don’t miss your hearing.
It's very important that you attend your hearings! If you don’t attend your hearing or you show up late, it is possible that the judge will decide to order your deportation (send you back to your home country).
If you don't have an attorney yet, you should still go to your first hearing (this is called a “master hearing”). There are also accompaniment programs in many areas, where you can ask a local community volunteer to give you a ride and/or go with you to your hearing so that you do not have to go alone. They cannot answer legal questions, but they can make it a little easier and less scary for you to attend your hearing.
The immigration court, officially called the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), decides whether you can stay in the United States. To check the status of your case, you have two options:
- Visit EOIR’s website (https://acis.eoir.justice.gov/es/)
- Call EOIR’s automated line (1-800-898-7180)
See the image below for step-by-step instructions about how to check the status of your case:
For information on how to check the status of your case in Mayan Languages (audio): https://cliniclegal.org/resources/removal-proceedings/audio-instructions-checking-immigration-court-case-status-mayan
2) What is the difference between going to an ICE check-in and going to an immigration court hearing (EOIR)?
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a government agency that is in charge of immigration detention. If you are over 18 years old, you may have to go to ICE check-ins. During a check-in, you will meet with an ICE officer in person and/or use your phone to report-in on a specific date/time. These check-ins are not the same as your court hearings with an immigration judge.
- Children who are under 18 years old, do not have to worry about ICE check-ins.
- It is important for you to attend all of your scheduled ICE check-ins, because missing an ICE check-in can negatively impact your immigration case and can lead to your detention
- If you move to a new location, you need to let both the ICE office and the immigration court office know and provide your new home address.
- An Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) immigration judge will decide whether you can stay in the United States. You will likely have several court hearings with an immigration judge, who will ask you questions about your case. It is a good idea to have a lawyer with you, when you go to court. They can help you prepare to tell your story to the judge about why you should be allowed to stay in the US.
3) What is my A-Number?
Your A-Number is an 8 or 9 digit number (for example, A012345678; it will usually start with the number 2) that you get when you arrive in the US. This is normal – every immigrant who enters the US receives their own unique A-Number (no two people have the same number).
Your A-Number is important because:
- It is used to identify you during your immigration process to different US government agencies like USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) when you need to get fingerprints or apply for employment authorization (so you can work legally in the US);
- It helps keep track of the different immigration forms and petitions that you may file;
- You use it to check when you need to go to court (see EOIR hotline and website above).
You can find your A Number on one of these documents:
Verification of Release (VOR) Form:
This document has your picture on it. It is given to you when leave the shelter with your sponsor. The picture below is an example of what a VOR form looks like.
Notice to Appear (NTA, or Form I-862):
This document tells you that you need to go to immigration court (before a judge) to try to stay in the US (and not be deported back to your home country). The picture below is an example of what an NTA looks like.
If you lost these documents and/or cannot find your A-Number, you can contact your caseworker to see which shelter you were in before being released to your sponsor. This shelter should have all your documents on file and can send you copies of your documents. If you can’t remember the exact name or location of your shelter, reach out to us and we will try to help you find it!
4) What is Asylum?
- Asylum is a form of protection that allows you to stay in the United States instead of being sent back to your home country, where someone might hurt you.
- The asylum process can be complicated, so it is important for you to talk to an attorney about whether you can apply for asylum or another form of protection from deportation.
- Watch this video to learn more about the asylum process and what questions you need to think about before applying for asylum:
Video available in Spanish, Chuj, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, K'iche', Mam, Q'anjob'al, Russian languages here.
5) What are my rights?
As an unaccompanied child, it's very important for you to know what your rights are and to understand the immigration process. We can help you find an attorney, see if you have an upcoming immigration hearing, and assist you with other general legal information. Click on the attachment at the bottom of this page in your preferred language to get more details about your rights and how we can help you. Contact us if you have any questions or need support!
It’s especially important to know your rights when interacting with ICE officers in different places. Remember: You have the right to remain silent if an ICE officer approaches you. Learn more about your rights with the resources below:
- We Have Rights (video): What you should do if ICE officers are at your door, in your home, or on the streets: https://www.wehaverightcs.us/
- Learn what to do if ICE agents knock on your door: https://www.aclusocal.org/en/know-your-rights/ice-agents-your-door
- Use this “red card” to protect your rights—You can print the card on paper to slide under your door if an officer knocks on your door, or you can show a picture of the card to an officer on your cell phone if they stop you. See an example of how to use your red card here.