What is the “voluntary departure” form of relief from deportation?

Voluntary DepartureVoluntary Departure Overview

If you are in immigration court proceedings, you should discuss with your immigration attorney whether voluntary departure is a good option for you. Voluntary departure is sometimes referred to as voluntary deportation. If you are granted voluntary departure, you will be allowed to leave the United States on your own, instead of under a removal order.

Benefits of Voluntary Departure

Voluntary departure has several benefits compared to a removal order:

  • Voluntary departure does not make you inadmissible for 10 years like a removal order does. This means you may be able to legally reenter the United States much sooner than if you leave under a removal order.
  • It allows you to leave the United States on your own, instead of being deported. This means that you likely will have more time and control over when you leave the United States.

Disadvantages of Voluntary Departure

If you are granted voluntary departure and do not leave on time, you will face severe negative consequences. These penalties include civil penalties (fines) and ineligibility for several forms of immigration relief for 10 years. Do not request voluntary departure unless you are confident that you will be able to leave within the time that you are given by the immigration judge.

Voluntary departure does not forgive any other immigration violations that you may have. For example, if you face a 10-year bar on returning to the United States due to unlawful presence in the United States, voluntary departure will not forgive your unlawful presence. You would still have a 10-year bar due to unlawful presence even with voluntary departure.

General Requirements for Voluntary Departure

Your immigration lawyer can help you evaluate whether you qualify for voluntary departure. Voluntary departure can be granted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prior to the start of removal proceedings. It can also be granted by an immigration judge either at the beginning or conclusion of your deportation hearing.

In order to qualify for voluntary departure before the start of your deportation hearing:

  • You must be able to pay you own way out of the United States, and
  • You must not be deportable for an aggravated felony or under the terrorist deportation grounds.

For the immigration judge to grant you voluntary departure at the start of your deportation hearing, you must concede removability, make no other requests for relief from removal, and waive appeal of all issues. You must also present evidence of favorable discretionary factors. If granted prior to the completion of your removal hearing, you will be given a maximum of 120 days to depart the United States.

If you wait until after your hearing to request voluntary departure, you must also meet other requirements such as having been physically present in the United States for at least one year prior to the start of removal proceedings and you must be able to show good moral character for at least five years prior to your application. If granted after your hearing, you will have a maximum of 60 days to leave the United States.

Deciding whether to request voluntary departure is a difficult decision for many people. You should discuss your situation with your immigration lawyer before making any decisions on what is the best course of action for you.

About Kimberley Schaefer

Kimberley Schaefer is an immigration lawyer with offices in Boise, ID and Rexburg, Idaho. She helps future Americans become citizens by assisting them with immigrant visas, fiance visas, adjustment of status and green card applications, applying for immigration waivers, fighting deportation and applying for asylum. To contact her, you can call (208) 918-0852 or send Kimberley an email now.

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