A Brazilian native who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in 2000 on a tourist visa but never left is at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case that will clarify a clause in the federal immigration law concerning deportation.

The nation’s highest court agreed on Jan. 12 to consider a case involving Wescley Fonseca Pereira which could have implications for people across the country who are living in the U.S. illegally.

The narrow legal issue to be decided is whether a notice given to Mr. Pereira in 2006 notifying him of an upcoming deportation hearing had the effect of “stopping the clock” on his years of U.S. residency, even though the notice didn’t state a date or time for the hearing. According to court records, Mr. Pereira never received a followup notice with the exact time of the hearing because it was sent to his street address in Oak Bluffs instead of to his mailing address.

The issue is important because federal law gives the U.S. attorney general the authority to cancel deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants if the person satisfies certain criteria, including 10 years of continuous physical presence in the U.S.

According to court records, Mr. Pereira entered the U.S. under a six-month visa that expired in December 2000. In May 2006, he was arrested for drunk driving. While in detention, he was personally served with a notice that immigration officials were initiating proceeding to have him removed from the country and that he would have to appear at a hearing in Boston at an unspecified time. The hearing was later set for Oct. 31, 2007, but Mr. Pereira did not receive the mailed notice and did not appear.

More than five years later, in May 2013, he was arrested again for driving with a suspended license. He argued that he was eligible for having the removal proceedings canceled because by then he had been in the country for more than 10 consecutive years.

The question of whether a notice to appear must include the time and place of a hearing in order to interrupt the 10-year requirement has been ruled on differently by two different federal circuit courts, setting up a conflict for the Supreme Court to resolve.

Saying the issue “recurs frequently” in immigration cases, lawyers for Mr. Pereira argued in their petition to the Supreme Court that the rule has implications for families.

“The question presented can cut off eligibility for an important form of relief even in the most deserving instances, as this case demonstrates,” according to the brief. “Petitioner Wescley Pereira is the father of, and primary breadwinner for, two young U.S.-citizen children. He is a respected member of the community in Martha’s Vineyard, where he has lived for more than a decade.”

Mr. Pereira is represented by attorneys from two Boston law firms: David J. Zimmer and Alexandra Lu of Goodwin Procter, and Jeffrey B. Rubin and Todd C. Pomerleau of Rubin Pomerlau.