When an undocumented immigrant is caught by immigration officers after crossing the border into the U.S., they likely will receive a Notice to Appear if they are released from detention. This will require them to appear at an immigration court in the area where they were found by the authorities. If they have family members or friends elsewhere in the U.S., they may want to move the location of their proceedings closer to where the family members or friends live. This can help them prepare for the hearing more effectively.
A broad network of immigration courts spans the U.S. They are operated by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Sometimes an immigration judge will grant a request by a foreign national to change the venue of their immigration proceeding, although this is discretionary. The judge must review the facts of the specific case and determine whether a change of venue would be appropriate. For example, the judge may look into whether the foreign national may have a valid defense to removal. They also may be more likely to grant a change of venue if the case has not already been delayed.
Requesting a Change of Venue in Immigration Court
In your request for a change of venue, you must provide the date and time of the next hearing in your case. You also must review your Notice to Appear carefully and make sure that you respond to each of the allegations in it. (Read more here about what the Notice to Appear contains.) The request should designate the country to which you will return if you are found removable from the U.S. and if any defense to removal does not succeed. You will need to list which types of immigration relief you will be seeking in the proceedings.
Just as importantly, you will need to provide your reasons for requesting a change of venue. Sometimes a foreign national will request a change because they have moved, which will involve attaching an additional form known as EOIR Form-33/IC to note the change of address. You must make sure to meet any procedural rules and other technical guidelines imposed by the court that currently has authority over your case. To ensure compliance, you may want to hire an attorney to handle your request. Once the proceedings start, you probably will want to have an attorney representing you, so this simply may mean looking for an attorney sooner than you would have otherwise. You may be able to secure representation for minimal or no cost by consulting the non-profit organizations listed on the Immigration Courts website.