Five Facts You Need to Know About Voluntary Departure

Alternative to Deportation: 
Voluntary Departure

 
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1. What is voluntary departure?

Voluntary departure occurs when you leave the U.S. on your own using your own money if no form of relief from removal is available to you (such as asylum or cancellation of removal). You must request the immigration judge or the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to grant you voluntary departure.

 

2. How is voluntary departure different from deportation?

Deportation occurs when DHS removes you from the United States to the country of your citizenship, whether you want to be removed or not, whereas voluntary departure occurs when you receive permission to leave on your own.

Voluntary departure is generally a better option than being removed; however, both an order of deportation and voluntary departure have consequences on your ability to return to the U.S.

 

3. What are the consequences of being deported versus taking voluntary departure?

Consequences of being deported if you were arrested AT arrival to the U.S.

There are different consequences depending on if the DHS arrested you at your arrival in the U.S. or after your arrival in the U.S.

If DHS arrested you at a land border checkpoint as you were trying to enter the United States, or at an international airport or seaport, and you are removed from the United States, you cannot return to the United States for the following time periods without advanced consent from DHS:

  • If this is your first removal: you cannot return for 5 years.
  • If you have been removed in the past: you cannot return for 20 years.
  • If you have been convicted of an aggravated felony: you are barred from ever returning.

 

Consequences of being deported if you were arrested AFTER arrival in the U.S.

If DHS arrested you inside the United States after you entered the country and you are removed, there are different time periods in which you cannot lawfully return to the United States unless you get advance consent from DHS:

  • If this is your first removal: you cannot return for 10 years.
  • If you have been removed in the past: you cannot return 20 years.
  • If you have been convicted of an aggravated felony: you are barred from ever returning.

 

Consequences of Leaving the U.S. under Voluntary Departure After Living in the U.S. Unlawfully for More than 180 Days But Less than One Year

You cannot return lawfully to the United States for three years without the advance consent of DHS if:

  • You have been continuously in the U.S. unlawfully for more than 180 days but less than a year and;
  • You get voluntary departure from DHS or you leave voluntarily on your own and;
  • Your voluntary departure happens before you receive the paper with your charges called a “Notice to Appear” and before your court hearings with the Immigration Judge. Note: if you have been in the U.S. unlawfully for over 180 days but less than a year and you get voluntary departure from the judge, this three year bar to returning to the U.S. does not apply.

 

Consequences of Leaving the U.S. Under Voluntary Departure After Living in the U.S. Unlawfully For One Year or More

You cannot return to the United States lawfully for ten years if:

  • You leave under an order of voluntary departure from either DHS or the Judge or you leave voluntarily on your own; and
  • Your departure happens prior to being placed in immigration proceedings or while in immigration proceedings; and
  • You have been in the United States continuously for 1 year or more unlawfully.

 

4. Can anyone ask for voluntary departure?

No. Not everyone qualifies. If DHS has charged you as an aggravated felon and the Immigration Judge agrees that the charge is correct, you will not be eligible to apply for voluntary departure.

 

5. How can I ask for voluntary departure and who can I ask?

You do not need to submit any papers or forms to request voluntary departure. Before you even see a judge, you can request voluntary departure from DHS. You may also request voluntary departure at your hearing before the judge.

 

Who will pay for my flight back?

If you are granted voluntary departure you must pay for your own flight back to your country of citizenship.

 

Have more questions?

Call our office to schedule a consult with one of our experienced attorneys. Our office is located at: 200 University Avenue W., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103. We can be reached by phone at: (651) 771-0019.