Voluntary Departure

If you are a non-U.S. citizen who has been apprehended by the immigration authorities and is facing removal proceedings, it may be in your best interest to voluntarily leave the U.S. instead of waiting to be deported. Voluntary departure can have fewer negative consequences for your future immigration choices. This is because if you ask a judge to leave the country on your own, you will not have an order of deportation on your immigration record. Voluntary departure allows an individual to leave the United Stated by a certain date.

The main benefit of voluntary departure is that you are not automatically barred from legally retuning to the United States at some other time. Although it is important to note that even compliance with a voluntary departure order does not mean you will not be found inadmissible and denied a visa in the future, you do avoid the automatic bar against entry into the United States. Whether you are ultimately admitted into the U.S. will depend on the facts of your specific case.

Individuals who are being deported from the U.S. must leave the country within 30 days, whereas a grant of voluntary departure typically has a deadline of either 60 or 120 days. This allows the individuals to tie up loose ends in the U.S., such as close bank accounts, terminate leases, sell property, and say goodbye to family and friends. This also permits them to make living arrangements outside the United States.  Among the most beneficial aspects of voluntary departure is the dignity of leaving largely on your own terms and avoiding the stigma of deportation.

There are different stages in your case at which you can request a voluntary departure. However, asking earlier is better because the requirements become more stringent as the case progresses. Voluntary departure is not always an option for everyone. For example, if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has charged you with an aggravated felony, and the Immigration Judge believes that charge is correct, you cannot voluntarily depart the United States.

If you fail to depart the country within the granted time, you will face a fine as well as a 10-year bar to several forms of relief from deportation. These include being granted cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, change of status, and further voluntary departure.

If a non-citizen fails to voluntary leave the United States upon receiving permission to do so, his or her voluntary departure order automatically becomes an order of removal. This means that you will be subject to involuntary removal from the U.S. If you leave past the date that you were supposed to leave under the voluntary departure order, your departure is considered a self-removal, meaning that you will be considered to have been deported. Thus, an individual should not seek voluntary departure if he or she cannot leave within the deadline set by the Immigration Judge, since failure to depart within that time frame can result in severe negative consequences for that individual. If you are uncertain whether this option is right for you, it is worth taking the time to discuss it with a skilled immigration attorney.

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