Voluntary Departure Explained, Tips from an Immigration Lawyer

If you are facing deportation (removal) from the United States, either prior to or during immigration court proceedings, your first course of action will be trying to obtain a cancellation of removal. If that fails, an alternate course of action is requesting voluntary departure – that is, leaving the country on your own, at your own expense, within a given time period. Unlike a removal order, voluntary departure does not bar you from legally returning at a later date.

The eligibility requirements for voluntary departure become stricter the longer you wait to request for it.

Eligibility Requirements During or Before Removal Hearing

You can request this status at the start of removal actions. Bear in mind that, by requesting voluntary departure at this point, you relinquish the right to apply for other forms of immigration release.

In case you haven’t already turned to an immigration lawyer, now would be a great time to do so. An experienced immigration lawyer can analyze your case and assess your chances of qualifying for either permanent or temporary right to stay in the US. Based on that, you can decide if you would like to go on with proceedings or appeal for voluntary departure.

In order to qualify for voluntary departure before the end of proceedings, you will have to provide convincing evidence that you intend to leave and have the financial ability to do so. The judge will also look at your criminal record to ensure you have no history of offenses or convictions and you are not a security risk.

If you have any criminal offenses on your record, consult with your immigration lawyer to establish whether such offenses can affect your voluntary departure request.

Eligibility Requirements at the End of a Removal Hearing

If you request voluntary departure at the end of proceedings, eligibility requirements will be stricter. You will have to produce character references and evidence that you

  • have had an uninterrupted stay of at least one year in the U.S.A. before being served the Notice to Appear
  • have not committed aggravated felonies or acts of terrorism
  • have not been refused voluntary departure on a prior occasion
  • have the financial resources to leave the U.S.A. at your own expense and commit to do so within the set period.

If these requirements are met, there is every chance your request will be granted. If that be the case, make sure you leave the country within the set term; otherwise, you might face serious consequences.

To sum up, if you cannot find an option that allows you to remain legally in the United States, requesting to depart voluntarily offers you a preferable alternative to a deportation order. However, given the high stakes, you should not seek voluntary departure without first consulting with a competent San Diego immigration attorney. Only after reviewing all available options should you agree to voluntarily depart.