The DOJ has issued a memo on Internet hearings and sets forth guidelines to be applied to such hearings in immigration courts in the future. EOIR anticipates that hearings using Webex or other similar platforms will remain important to EOIR operations in the future. The memo is effective immediately.

Hearings before immigration judges may be held both in person and with one or more participants appearing via video or telephone from various locations outside the court. By following the guidelines and the questions most often asked, you will know exactly what to do or the process to follow.

The guidelines for internet hearings are as follows.

  • The decision to have the immigration judge appear in court or remotely is up to the court and is made in accordance with agency policy and operational needs.
  • The decision to have the defendant and his or her counsel appear in court or remotely is also the court’s decision.

The decision to have the respondent and his or her counsel appear in court or remotely is also a decision of the court, but the immigration judge must grant the respondent’s request to appear in court or remotely when appropriate and possible. For example

  • When the respondent is represented, the immigration judge should generally grant requests for court or remote appearance by the respondent, the respondent’s attorney, or both.
  • The court will not order an unrepresented defendant to appear remotely.

However, an unrepresented defendant may request to do so, and the immigration judge must generally grant that request.      

  • An immigration judge must grant a witness’s request to appear remotely when such a request is reasonable.
  • A request to appear remotely or in person must be made in writing fifteen days before the hearing, unless waived by the immigration judge.
  • If a defendant and counsel are both appearing remotely, they may appear together or from different locations. It is not necessary for the respondent and counsel to appear together from the attorney’s office.
  • An immigration judge conducting an Internet hearing must confirm that all persons appearing at a distance are clearly visible on the screen and that all participants, whether at a distance or in the same location as the judge, can clearly hear everything that is said.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Consistent with the advice of public health officials, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has practices in place to protect all persons working at or visiting EOIR facilities nationwide.

We remain committed to practices that provide this essential information to all employees and visitors.

Q) What are the protocols for wearing masks?

A) In accordance with the new CDC guidelines, EOIR will regularly monitor county-level data to determine if masking is required for employees and visitors.

EOIR will use this data to determine the COVID-19 community level for a given EOIR building by looking at the COVID-19 community level for that building.

Q) Can an attorney file a motion to appear via Webex when the defendant plans to appear in person?

A) A party may file a motion for the respondent or representative to appear at a VTC hearing via Webex without affecting the other party’s in-person appearance. Please note that the Immigration Judge has the discretion to require an in-person or VTC appearance.

Q) Will the video recording of the Webex hearing be available for review?

A) EOIR does not video record hearings, including those conducted via Webex. Hearings (with the exception of bond review hearings) are recorded, in audio only, using the Digital Recording System (DAR). Recordings of hearings may be played by the parties upon prior agreement with immigration court staff.

Parties and the general public may also obtain copies of the DAR through the following means.

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