A person may be spared from removal/deportation by voluntarily leaving the United States. Voluntary departure must be granted by a judge and requires that the person leave the United States within a specified period of time.
Why Would I Agree to Voluntarily Depart?
By agreeing to depart the United States, rather than being removed by immigration authorities, you will not be subjected to the severe consequences under a removal order. In fact, if you are facing removal, and you voluntarily depart, your record will have no indication that you faced removal. If you are removed from the country:
- Your chances of ever returning to the United States are significantly reduced
- You cannot apply to return to the United States for at least ten years
Should I Attend My Removal Proceeding if I Plan on Departing Voluntarily?
If after receiving notice of a removal hearing, you fail to appear, you may be ordered removed despite your absence from the proceeding. Although you already left the United States, your immigration record will have the removal on it and you will be barred from ever re-entering the United States.
When Will Voluntary Departure Be Granted?
You may seek a voluntary departure at the start of your removal proceedings. Seeking this request means that you are forever giving up your right to apply for any other form of immigration relief. At this stage, a judge will have to grant your voluntary departure. A voluntary departure may be granted at different times. These include:
- Prior to commencement of removal hearing
- Prior to completion of removal hearing
- After final removal order was entered
If you do not already have an attorney to assist you in this matter, this stage will be a very good time to get one because an attorney can help you analyze whether you might qualify for some temporary or permanent right to remain in the United States.
How Will I Qualify For a Voluntary Departure?
In order to qualify for a voluntary departure at the start of your removal hearing, the following must be met:
- You must make the request before or at the first master hearing
- You must only request a voluntary hearing
- You must admit that you are removable from the U.S
- You must waive the right to appeal all the issues
- You must prove that you have not been convicted of an aggravated felony and are not deportable for public safety reasons.
The decision whether to grant the voluntary departure will rest upon the judge and the judge will consider several factors such as your criminal history, immigration history, family and community ties to the United States.
Who Will Not Be Granted Voluntary Departure?
The granting of voluntary departure is based on each individuals situation. However, the following persons are prohibited from using voluntary departure:
- Persons who were previously permitted to voluntarily depart
- Persons who were orally advised of their removal hearing and failed to appear
What If I Fail to Depart after Being Granted Voluntary Departure?
If you fail to depart after being granted voluntary departure, you may be fined $5,000 and not be able to change your removal order or change your immigration status for at least ten years.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?
If you are facing removal/deportation, an immigration attorney can review your case and discuss with you the benefits of agreeing to depart voluntarily. An immigration lawyer can help you prepare for your hearing.