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Compared to deportation, voluntary departure allows you to leave the United States with fewer negative repercussions. Although not always available, this immigration relief can be useful for those who are in the country illegally.

Either way, if you find yourself in deportation proceedings, our immigration lawyers specializing in deportations will be able to help you. With more than 50 years of combined experience, our professionals will fight for you. Call us today, as time is a determining factor when it comes to removal proceedings.


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What Is Voluntary Departure From The United States?

Voluntary departure is basically that, voluntarily leaving the United States using your own money. In general, this immigration resource is usually used by foreigners when the U. S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to remove them.

Although voluntary departure makes it possible for a foreign national to leave the United States on a pre-established date, failure to do so could have consequences. For example, fines and/or deportation. However, the main advantage of leaving voluntarily is that you will not be bared from returning to the United States again.

unlawful presence in the U.S.

Despite this immigration relief existing, not everyone meets the requirements to request it. Therefore, we invite all immigrants to avoid unlawful presence in the U. S, as they could affect their eligibility to legalize later. 

What Benefits Does A Voluntary Departure From The United States Have?

One of the greatest benefits of voluntary departure in the United States is that there is no record of deportation in your background. This opens the possibility for an undocumented immigrant to request legal return to the country in the future.

Other advantages include:

  • Possibility of legally returning to the U. S,
  • Be eligible to apply for a visa in the future,
  • Be able to receive a petition for lawful permanent residence from a family member. For example, a petition from citizen children to parents.

If you are looking for more information about the latter, you can consult our family-based immigration petition blogs, where we answer topics such as: 

Disadvantages Of Voluntary Departure

On the other hand, the disadvantage is that, by choosing voluntary departure, you must give up the right to:

  1. Appeal, or 
  2. File any kind of legal appeal against the departure order. 

If that were not enough, you may be required to pay certain immigration bail bonds and meet other specific criteria. This will be especially true if you wait until the end of the deportation process and request voluntary departure. 

Our Los Angeles immigration lawyers can work with government authorities to determine if you meet these requirements. 

If you are about to appeal an immigration case, we invite you to our blog: “Immigration appeal process” so that you know this topic in detail.

How Apply for Voluntary Departure From The United States?

There is no specific form to apply for voluntary departure, but you must inform the judge of your desire to do so. It is essential to seek legal advice during this process, since voluntary departure requires the collection of various documents, such as:

what is voluntary departure
  • Letters of support from family, friends, employers and so on. Such letters must confirm your good civic conduct (with English translations and translation certificates). 
  • Proof of relationship to U. S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. For example, birth certificates, copies of residency cards, and marriage certificates.
  • Certificates of completed classes.
  • Evidence of family support.
  • Employment documentation.
  • Utility bills.
  • Bank statements, and 
  • Proof that you have sufficient resources for your departure. 

Additionally, they may also require copies of your passport or travel documents. It should be noted that if approved, you may also have to pay the deposit.

How Long Does Voluntary Departure From The United States Take?

Often, when approving the application to leave voluntarily, the judge will specify a time period between 60 to 120 days to leave the U. S. If you do not do so, you will face serious immigration consequences.

Note8 US Code § 1229c states that permission to leave voluntarily will only be valid for up to 120 days.

Requirements To apply for A Voluntary Departure From The United States

Voluntary departure will be available once the following criteria have been met:

  • Be physically present in the United States for at least one year before receiving the Notice to Appear.
  • For at least 5 years prior to requesting voluntary departure, you had good moral character. This is according to 8 CFR § 316.10.
  • Not be deportable due to a serious crime or terrorism.
  • Establish clearly and convincingly the ability to leave the country on your own. Also, having the intention to do it.
  • Have the financial ability to post bail in an amount determined by an immigration judge. This will be within 5 days of order.

Who Does Not Qualify For Voluntary Departure?

You are not eligible for voluntary departure if you:

  1. Have been convicted of an aggravated crime, or 
  2. Are considered deportable for national security reasons under 42 US Code § 234.

What Is Considered An Aggravated Crime?

Many crimes, including misdemeanors, can be considered aggravated under immigration laws. This is regardless of your classification in the state criminal system. 

Likewise, eligibility for voluntary departure may be affected if crimes considered aggravating have been committed. These are listed in section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Some of those considered aggravated crimes include:

deportation vs voluntary departure
  • Crimes related to drug trafficking, weapons trafficking or explosive devices.
  • Crimes that resulted in a sentence of one year or more, such as:
    • Theft.
    • Violent crimes. 
    • Document fraud.
    • Obstruction of justice.
    • Perjury.
    • Bribery of witnesses.
    • Commercial bribery.
    • Falsification.
    • Stolen vehicle trafficking.
  • Crimes related to gambling.
  • Rape, sexual abuse of a minor, crime of migrant smuggling, fraud or tax evasion.
  • Money laundering.

Types Of Voluntary Departure From The United States

There are 3 types of voluntary departures from the U. S, these are:

  1. Voluntary departure prior to the hearing: This is done on a discretionary basis where the judge grants it to the national foreigners if they meet certain criteria. For example, they requested voluntary departure before or during the master calendar hearing or did not request any other immigration relief.
  2. Voluntary departure by stipulation: This will only be available before the final hearing is completed if the alien and DHS agree. Pursuant to 8 CFR § 1240.26, the parties may agree to a period of up to 120 days. 
  3. Voluntary Post-Conclusion Departure: Only available at the conclusion of the deportation hearing. In addition, the foreigner must meet all the necessary requirements for such a permit. 

What Is The Difference Between A Deportation And A Voluntary Departure?

  • Voluntary departure is a personal choice, while deportation is a legal action.
  • Voluntary departure offers an option to avoid legal and criminal consequences, although other immigration restrictions may apply. In contrast, with deportation, the individual may face difficulties obtaining visas or entry permits to the United States.
  • Upon deportation, the immigrant will automatically be barred from returning to the U. S. temporarily or permanently. However, leaving voluntarily will not automatically impose this.
  • Deportation is generally subject to legal deadlines and often involves detention, while voluntary departure is more flexible. 

These processes are different in the immigration context, since one avoids legal and criminal consequences. On the other hand, the other part leads to certain sanctions and punishments imposed by laws. 

When To Request Voluntary Departure From The United States?

You may request voluntary departure either before or at the conclusion of the master calendar hearing. But to do so, you must have met the necessary requirements. These are the following:

when to request voluntary departure

Before Concluding The Hearing

  • Waive or withdraw any application for immigration relief.
  • Agree to be removed.
  • You waive to appeal the immigration case.
  • You have not been convicted of any serious crime nor does he represent a risk to American security.
  • You can proove that you have the financial capacity to leave the country.

After The Hearing

  • Evidence your physical presence for one year before the notice of appearance is issued.
  • Pay the immigration bond.
  • Demonstrate that you had good moral character for 5 years prior to applying.
  • Demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to leave the country.
  • Provide your current passport or other travel document to DHS (if applicable).

Ways You Can Automatically Terminate An Order To Voluntarily Depart The United States

There are three circumstances in which a voluntary departure order can terminate automatically:

  1. If you request a review of the decision by the judge and leave the country. This must be done within 30 days of applying and showing evidence of your departure. This is generally considered voluntary departure rather than repatriation.
  2. If you decide to reopen your case and the deadline to leave the country is not paused or extended after the exit order is granted.
  3. You do not post the deposit. However, a repatriation order can be changed to a voluntary departure order if you leave the country within 25 days. But to do this, you must agree to stay out and provide evidence of your departure.

What Is Form I-94?

Form I-94 is a record of arrival and departure for foreigners in the United States. Such form demonstrates legal entry and authorized duration of stay. 

Additionally, it is essential to retain your I-94, as losing it can have serious consequences. Fortunately, a copy can be obtained through the DHS website using Form I-102

types of american visas

It should be noted that staying in the country after the I-94 expiration date is considered illegal. As a result, you may become inadmissible or have difficulty obtaining any of the different types of American visas.

What Are The Consequences Of Leaving The United States With Voluntary Departure?

Next, we are going to provide answers to several consequences of leaving the U. S. through this method:

Leaving Voluntarily After Living In The United States Without Immigration Status For More Than 180 Days But Less Than A Year

  • You will not be able to return to the United States for 3 years.
  • It is necessary to have stayed within the country continuously for more than 180 days (6 months), but less than a year.
  • Your departure must occur before you receive a Notice to Appear.

You can request an exception. However, you must demonstrate that a citizen or awful permanent resident immediate relative would suffer “extreme hardship” if prevented from returning within 3 years. Learn more about the types of immigration waivers on our blog.

Leaving Voluntarily After Living In The United States Without Immigration Status For A Year Or More

  • You will not be able to return to the United States for 10 years.
  • This departure may occur before or during removal procedures.
  • You must have lived continuously in the United States for one year or more.
  • However, you may qualify for the “extreme hardship” exemption explained above.

Illegally Reentering The United States After Requesting Voluntary Departure

  • You could face 1 to 20 years in prison (depending on your criminal record). Additionally, you could be bared from entering the United States for 10 years unless DHS grants you approval to re-enter.
  • You may also receive a 2-year penalty plus a $1,000 fine.

Not leaving Before The Established Date

Frequently Asked Questions About Voluntary Departure From The United States

What happens if I don’t leave the country?

If you do not leave the country under the terms of voluntary departure, then you will face significant consequences. This option will become a formal deportation order, executed by an immigration judge, carrying a 10-year re-entry ban. Find out what else can happen to you in: “What happens if you overstay your US visa.”

Do I have to pay to leave the country on time?

Immigrants who plan to leave the country must demonstrate that they can do so on their own. Therefore, they are sometimes required to make a payment of at least $500 as part of the voluntary departure application. 

Is voluntary departure considered a deportation?

No. Opting for voluntary departure is an alternative to deportation, allowing foreigners to leave voluntarily within a set period. That said, voluntary departure can be used if you are about to be deported, and if applicable.

Can I return to the U. S. after voluntary departure?

Yes, you may apply for a visa to legally enter the United States after completing the applicable waiting period.

Immigration Lawyers In Los Angeles Specializing In Voluntary Departure From The United States

Voluntary departure is a complex and time-sensitive process. Therefore, it is essential to understand the requirements and the possible consequences of not meeting them.

That being said, consider consulting with a top-rated immigration attorney like ours. This will be to secure your rights and improve your chance of success. 

The attorneys at Lluis Law in California can provide you with helpful advice, answer your questions, and help you navigate the process. They will also help ensure that your application is submitted correctly. Contact Lluis Law today to discuss your options.


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