A Brief Q&A on Voluntary Departure

When you are facing the possibility of removal from the US, the ideal outcome is cancellation of removal, which allows you to adjust your status to that of lawful permanent resident. If you are not eligible cancellation, or it is not granted, you can request voluntary departure, meaning that you leave the country voluntarily within a specified time period. Below is an overview of voluntary departure, and how it can help you accomplish your goal of future US residency and eventual citizenship.

Q. How is voluntary departure an advantage?

A. If you are deported from the US after a removal hearing, you generally cannot return for 10 years. Even if you meet and marry an American citizen (or are currently married to one), you cannot apply for permanent residence until the 10-year ban ends. As you can imagine, this outcome can be devastating for families.

On the other hand, you don’t have that 10-year-ban imposed when the court grants you voluntary departure. If you are married, your spouse can immediately petition to have you rejoin them.

Q. Who is eligible for voluntary departure?

A. The immigration court judge has sole discretion on whether to grant you voluntary departure. Factors that the court will consider include your family ties in the US, your personal history, immigration history, and whether you have a criminal record. A conviction for an aggravated felony can render you ineligible for voluntary departure.

Q. What happens when you request voluntary departure during, or before the removal hearing?

A. If you request voluntary departure when removal actions against you begin, understand that you cannot apply for any other forms of immigration relief if it is denied. You must be certain that this is the route that you want to take to avoid deportation.

To qualify for this status before proceedings begin, you must prove that you intend to leave and that you have the financial means to do so. The court will also review your criminal record to confirm that you are not a security risk.

Q. What if you request voluntary departure after the hearing ends?

A. The eligibility requirements are stricter if you request voluntary departure after the hearing. You will have to produce the following:

  • Good character references
  • Evidence that you remained continuously in the US for at least one year before receiving the Notice to Appear
  • Evidence that you can afford to leave the country and intend to do so when ordered

Additionally, you must not have committed aggravated felonies, acts of terrorism, or have been refused voluntary departure in the past. To give you a better idea of how voluntary departure can potentially benefit you, here’s a hypothetical scenario:

Joe entered the US without a visa several years ago. While working at a Miami restaurant, he meets and falls in love with Paula. They get married and have been enjoying a happy relationship for three years when ICE agents arrest Joe and removal hearings commence. His wife, Paula, is a citizen but cannot sponsor Joe for permanent residence from within the US because Joe entered without inspection. Instead of risking a 10-year-ban, Joe and his attorney request voluntary departure. That way, Paula can petition for Joe once he’s back in his country, and they can be reunited as soon as possible.

Contact a Miami Immigration Attorney

If you are ineligible for any form of immigration relief that would allow you to stay in the US, voluntary departure is a positive alternative to a deportation order. At Sánchez-Roig Law, P.A., we will review your case, explore potential alternatives to removal, and help you voluntary departure if it will help you rejoin your loved ones more quickly. For more information, please contact us.