Voluntary departure

Immigrants facing deportation proceedings can opt for voluntary departure from the United States. Likewise, foreigners at the time of being arrested by officers of the Immigration and Customs Control Service (ICE) .


The Los Angeles immigration attorneys at Lluis Law can guide you through this entire process. Call now and book an appointment with us to explain your options and how Immigration Law can help you.

What is a voluntary departure from the United States

It is basically an agreement between the US government and the illegal migrant to leave the country. The foreigner must do so within the established deadline and bear his / her exit expenses. In exchange, no deportation order is issued against him.

Voluntary departure, as the name implies, is a resource that the illegal immigrant can ultimately use. When the deportation process is imminent, the foreigner has the opportunity to leave the country on his own.

When making the commitment with the immigration authorities to leave the United States, the foreigner does it by his own means. That is, you pay your ticket back to the country of origin and all the expenses involved in the departure process.

However, before deciding to do so, it is wise to speak with a knowledgeable immigration attorney. He will be able to tell you if there is any immigration relief available that allows you to stay like:

When should I request voluntary departure?

There are four situations or moments in which it is feasible to request this immigration permit: 

  • Before the deportation process begins.
  • At the beginning of the deportation procedure.
  • During the deportation process.
  • At the end of the deportation process, but before the order is officially issued.
what is voluntary departure

Requirements to obtain voluntary departure from the United States

The request for voluntary departure must be made expressly to the immigration judge or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) . If you do it before a judge, you can make the request the same day as the hearing. 

To request this permit the person must meet certain eligibility requirements: 

  • Possess a criminal record without convictions for terrorist activities or serious aggravated crimes. For example, rapemurderdrug trafficking, scam, or tax evasion. 
  • Demonstrate possession of sufficient financial resources to cover travel expenses.
  • Have a valid valid passport.
  • Post a $ 500 voluntary departure bond.
  • Have been continuously in the US for at least one year. Only if the request is made at the end of the process.
  • Have had good moral conduct in the last 5 years (also if the request is made at the end of the process). 

To meet this last requirement, you will need letters of recommendation from family, friends, co-workers, and community members.

The procedure for the voluntary migration permit does not require filling out any forms, as indicated by the Department of Justice . 

Supporting documentation to request voluntary departure

With the help of your lawyer, you should prepare a package containing documents to present to the Court. Such documents must be presented in an orderly manner: 

Exhibit A: Links with family and friends in the US:

  • Letters from siblings, cousins, uncles, co-workers, and neighbors. 
  • Photographs and videos.
  • Identification documents (children’s birth certificates, marriage certificate, etc.). 

Exhibit B: Residence in the US:

  • Evidence of payments to the landlord.
  • Tax payment. 
  • Job letters. 

Exhibit C: Evidence of deprivation of liberty if detained and in deportation proceedings. 

Test D: Evidence of service and contributions to the community:

  • Letters from community associations, clubs, unions, and the church you attend.
  • Recognition diplomas received.

Exhibit E: Evidence of rehabilitation for those with a criminal record:

  • Certificates of alcohol or drug rehabilitation centers.
  • Certificates and diplomas of English and other courses, academic degrees.
  • Evidence that you are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa and for future adjustment of status

It is recommended to make two photocopies of the package you present. The original is filed with the court, one of the copies is for the prosecutor and the other for the applicant.

The judge’s package must expressly say To the Immigration Court “To immigration court.” While the envelope with the copy for the prosecutor must bear the inscription To ICE Litigation “A litigio de ICE”.

What factors does the judge take into account to grant this permission?

The immigration judge will consider among other elements:

  • The applicant’s immigration history.
  • The criminal record.
  • Length of stay in the US
  • Family ties and social roots in the US
  • Relationship with citizens or permanent residents.
  • Humanitarian factors (persecuted or tortured in their country of origin).

What is the deadline to comply with voluntary departure?

After DHS receives the request, the migrant has 120 days to leave the country. 

Difference between voluntary departure and deportation

Fundamentally, the difference is in the way the illegal immigrant leaves the US Deportation or removal is the forcible departure from US territory ordered by an immigration judge.

On the other hand, voluntary departure from the United States takes place when it is the foreigner himself who requests permission to leave the country. 

For various reasons, and when there is no other option, voluntary departure is better for various reasons. Although, both deportation and voluntary departure limit the alien’s ability to return to the U.S.

Can all foreigners with an illegal presence request voluntary departure?

Not always. When the person has been charged with a criminal offense and the judge accepts the charges, they are not eligible if:

  • You have been prosecuted for an aggravated felony.
  • He is accused on a charge of “arriving alien”.
  • Previously, he was granted a voluntary departure granted by an immigration judge.
  • You entered with the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Who pays the costs of leaving the US?

All applicants for voluntary departure from the United States must pay their return expenses to their country of origin. The federal administration does not cover any expenses related to travel, as if it does in deportation proceedings.

How to request voluntary departure from DHS?

The Department of Homeland Security allows undocumented aliens living in the United States to voluntarily leave the country. Departure must be made prior to a specific date set by DHS.

To verify that they have left the US voluntarily, the interested party must go to the US embassy in their country. Once there, an officer will give you the “Verification of Exit” form (G-146 or I-210).

To request an appointment at the embassy or consulate of your country, you must access the Appointment System of the Department of State. When entering, choose the option “Notarial request and other services not listed above”.

Documentation to present on the day of the appointment at the embassy / consulate

  • Original Form G-146 or I-210 provided by DHS.
  • Any other document that proves your voluntary departure: immigration bond, court permission. 
  • Original identification documents with photo: passport or driver’s license from your country, among others.
  • Proof of departure from the USA: original bus tickets or boarding passes, gas receipts, etc.

Advantages and disadvantages of voluntary departure

  • Its main benefit is that it eliminates deportation from the immigrant’s history, although not the permanence without papers.
  • In the future, the person could apply again for legal re-entry into the country. 
  • The downside is that those who ask for voluntary departure give up the right to immigration appeal or any other recourse.
  • Foreigners requesting voluntary departure at the end of the deportation process will likely need to post a bond. In addition to meeting other application criteria.

Before making this decision, better consult with your immigration attorney. Remember that voluntary departure from the United States is the last resort to be used when everyone else fails.

Consequences of being arrested and deported upon arrival in the US

It all depends on when and how you were arrested in the United States. That is, if the arrest occurred when entering the country or was after being present in the United States. 

If the arrest occurs at any land, air or sea port of entry and then you are expelled from the country, the law establishes different types of sanctions.

Currently, ICE is even empowered by law to carry out immediate deportations of foreigners without the need for a trial. 

The penalties for violations of the Immigration Law are the following:

  • If it is the first time, the penalty is for 5 years. 
  • If you are a repeat offender (second expulsion), you will not be able to return for 20 years.
  • If you are convicted of an aggravated felony, the return ban is for life.

Unless the alien obtains an immigration waiver and DHS authorizes his return to the country.

Consequences of being arrested and deported while in the US

If the arrest occurs after the immigrant is already in the US and is later expelled, there are other sanctions:

  • First expulsion: prohibition to return for 10 years.
  • Second expulsion: prohibition to return for 20 years.
  • If you were convicted of an aggravated felony: prohibition to return forever.

Consequences of voluntary departure from the U.S. After Illegal Staying 

Foreigners will receive a 3-year ban on returning to the US if:

  • Have lived in the US illegally for more than 180 days, but less than a year; 
  • DHS authorizes voluntary departure or the alien decides to leave on his own; or
  • Voluntary departure occurs before receiving the “Notice to Appear” from the immigration court. 

But if these people receive a voluntary discharge issued by the immigration judge, the sanction does not apply.

People who leave the country voluntarily and comply with the 3 or 10 year sanctions can then apply again to enter the US The procedure to do so is through a resource called Advance Parole . 

Consequences of voluntarily leaving the U.S. after staying illegally for more than a year

The punishment of ten years is imposed when the foreigner:  

  • Apply to DHS or the Immigration Judge for a voluntary departure permit and it is granted; Y
  • Departure from the country takes place before being placed in deportation proceedings.

When is a voluntary departure order automatically terminated?

Automatic revocation of this immigration permit can occur in three specific situations:

  • The applicant or their attorney files an immigration appeal for review of a court decision issued by an immigration judge. 
  • The applicant files a motion to reopen their case. Although this immigration resource does not stop the deadline set for the immigrant to leave the country.
  • The applicant does not pay the immigration bond. However, the foreigner can change the order of repatriation to voluntary departure. 

To do this, you must agree to leave the country in 25 days and agree not to return. Additionally, you must provide evidence of departure and show that you have not returned to the country.

When the person leaves the US within 30 days of applying for the permit and shows that they left, it is generally also considered a voluntary departure and not a repatriation or expulsion.

deportation vs voluntary departure

How is the procedure in Court?

During the preliminary hearing (Master Calendar Hearing), the migrant can request voluntary departure. 

It is likely that after hearing the arguments and evaluating the evidence, the judge will decide in that same act. As long as the prosecutor does not oppose the request.

Otherwise, the judge must evaluate the prosecutor’s arguments and deny or grant the petition. For the judge to deny the request it does not require that the migrant has committed an aggravated crime.

An accumulation of crimes in the criminal record could be enough to deny the request.

When this situation arises in court, the judge asks the migrant:

  • If you agree to have the deportation take place that same day; or
  • If you want to be granted a “rebuttal hearing” where you can present your arguments and evidence to the contrary.

When he chooses the second option, the migrant will remain in detention until the new hearing. On the other hand, if you choose the first option, you agree that you cannot ask again for voluntary departure from the US There, the case ends.  

Helpful tips in presence of the Judge

  • Prepare a credible and sincere testimony with the help of your attorney.
  • During the hearing, explain in detail why you deserve permission. 
  • Talk about your criminal record frankly, don’t get defensive. Convictions received are part of the elements of the deportation process. 
  • Expressing a desire to redeem yourself for mistakes can help you get a favorable decision. 
  • When you talk about yourself and your family, do it from the heart. Before you go to court, prepare by writing, reviewing, and reciting your testimony.
  • Write a list of your strengths as a person, the good things you have done for your family or community.  
  • Bring your notes to the audience so that you don’t forget to mention anything that is important to you.
  • When you get up to speak during the hearing, do so calmly. Think carefully about each word and remember that the more credible your testimony, the more likely you are to receive permission.  
  • If you need to take a break to review your notes, ask the judge.

What happens if the migrant fails to comply with voluntary departure?

Failure to comply with the commitment to leave the United States on the date stipulated by the immigration judge, carries new sanctions:

  • Immediate deportation order.
  • Fine of up to $ 5000.
  • Prohibition to receive immigration benefits for 10 years.

These sanctions will be ordered by the judge, regardless of whether it was not your fault that you did not leave the United States.

Can immigrants married with children and living in the US for many years also be expelled?

Yes. Even if the spouse and children are US citizens, the immigrant can be deported. The only people the law prevents from expelling are US citizens.

Can you avoid deportation and not remain in detention during the process?

Migrants with an experienced immigration attorney have a greater chance of succeeding. 

People who are eligible for the various existing immigration reliefs – mentioned above – can try. You can also get out of prison on bail to continue fighting the case on probation.

For example, family petitions are especially helpful in these circumstances. Our immigration attorneys have managed to prevent the deportation of hundreds of Hispanic and non-Hispanic immigrants. 

A particularly useful resource in this case is the immigration bond (Voluntary Departure Bond).


If you need to clarify more questions about voluntary departure from the United States, contact us now. Our attorneys are available to defend you and obtain the best result for you and your family.