When to Request Voluntary Departure During Deportation Proceedings
If you cannot make a successful defense to removal from the U.S., you may be able to get voluntary departure instead of being subject to an order of removal. You can ask for voluntary departure before a removal hearing, at the Master Calendar hearing, or at the end of a removal hearing. Different requirements for eligibility apply in each situation. Before agreeing to voluntary departure, you should be aware that it precludes you from seeking any form of immigration relief. Unless they want to return to their home country or are not eligible for immigration relief, a foreign national may prefer to wait to request voluntary departure until after they have explored ways to stay in the U.S.
The requirements for requesting voluntary departure before a removal hearing are relatively lenient. A foreign national may ask for voluntary departure when they are in immigration detention, or after they have been arrested if they do not believe that they have a basis for staying in the U.S. You should be eligible for voluntary departure as long as you have not committed an aggravated felony, you have not been detained at a border or entry point, and you have not been involved in terrorism. You would need to depart at your own expense within the specified time frame, up to 120 days, possibly subject to certain conditions such as posting a bond. A foreign national who is currently in detention may be required to stay in detention until the date of their departure.
Requesting Voluntary Departure at Your Master Calendar Hearing
To be eligible for voluntary departure at this stage, you must admit that you are removable from the U.S., waive your right to immigration relief or an appeal, and make the request at your first hearing in immigration court. This is known as the Master Calendar hearing. The only other requirements for eligibility are that you must not have an aggravated felony conviction on your record and must not pose a threat to public safety or national security that makes you removable. The judge has the discretion to decide whether voluntary departure would be appropriate in your case. They may be reluctant to grant voluntary departure if you have a significant criminal record, but otherwise the judge likely will approve the request.
Sometimes you can ask the government attorney in your case for voluntary departure during the course of a removal hearing. If they agree to grant it, they will file a motion with the court to end the proceedings before setting up the terms of your voluntary departure. The government attorney will not agree to this request if you have committed an aggravated felony or other serious crimes, or if you pose a threat to public safety or national security that makes you removable.
Requesting Voluntary Departure at the End of a Removal Hearing
If your application for immigration relief does not seem likely to succeed, you might ask the judge for voluntary departure at the end of the proceedings. The requirements are more specific and harder to meet at this stage. You must show that you have had good moral character for the last five years, you have not committed an aggravated felony or engaged in terrorist activity, and you have not previously received voluntary departure after you were found inadmissible. You also must show the judge that you are financially able to pay for your departure from the U.S. and that you intend to leave before the deadline. You must be able to post a bond within five days of receiving the voluntary departure order. You must show the judge that you have a valid passport or travel document that you can use for your trip.
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