Voluntary departure. Is this truly the best option?

In the last two articles I have been writing about deportations without hearings before immigration judges, which is very problematic because of the severe consequences of signing a Stipulated Order of Removal or Expedited Deportation. And now, I would like to finish the series of three articles about immigration by writing about the immigration benefit called Voluntary Departure.

Voluntary Departure is when an immigrant leaves the United States voluntarily through his own means without receiving a deportation order. This is an immigration benefit that has to be granted by an immigration agent. This benefit is particularly important for those individuals which may be eligible for a visa in the future to return to the United States (i.e., through a relative or an employer).

When someone asks or accepts voluntary departure, the immigrant admits he/she does not intend to stay in the United States any longer and promises to leave voluntarily within a short period of time, rather than being expelled from the United States. If, however, an immigrant who has received a voluntary departure order does not leave the country within the specific time, he/she will face steep fines and obstacles of 10 years before he/she can qualify for reliefs from deportations. If voluntary departure is granted, you must leave in 60 or 120 days.

There are two ways to obtain voluntary departure: through an immigration agent or through a hearing before an immigration judge. Even though there are no limits to the number of times a person can receive a voluntary departure order, the government grants it only to persons who has not received it previously.

The immigration judge can only grant voluntary departure if you show:

  • You have been physically present in the United States for at least one year before the initiation of the removal proceedings;
  • You have been a person of good moral character for at least 5 years previous to the voluntary departure;
  • You have not committed an aggravated felony;
  • You are not deportable under terrorist grounds; and
  • You have the means to leave the United States and intend to do it.

The real problem of the voluntary departure, which many immigrants from Central America experienced, specially the Mexicans, is signing a voluntary departure order as soon as they are detained by immigration. This is very problematic because they think they will come back to the United States as soon as they leave the country without any problem. However, there are many problems. For example, when an immigrant who has received a voluntary departure order returns to the United States, he/she will not be able to post bond if detained, will not be eligible for several reliefs from deportation, and will not have a hearing before an immigration judge. For this reason, it is advisable not signing a voluntary departure order when the person is detained, but hiring a lawyer for representation in the immigration court. The lawyer will help you remain in the United States for a long period of time while the immigration proceeding is in place even if you are not entitled to stay in the United States because you are undocumented.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about immigration law and deportations. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with an immigration case. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes. 

I represent individuals in Immigration cases.  If you have any questions or concerns about an Immigration case or a Petition, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at joseperez@joseperezyourlawyer.com. The Law Office of Jose Perez is located at 120 East Washington Street, Suite 925, Syracuse, New York13202. I HOPE YOU HA A GREAT CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION AND THAT THIS NEW YEAR IS FILLED WITH ALL THOSE GREAT THINGS YOU DESERVE.  Please look for my next article in the February edition.

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