Sometimes, there are occasions when it is simply not possible to remain in the United States. The evidence of a legal violation is simply too high to explain away or rationalize. In those cases, it is always better to cut one’s losses, and this can often be done by taking advantage of voluntary departure if it is offered to you. Sometimes, however, voluntary departure is not the best option, so it is an advantage to understand its mechanics on an in-depth level to make an informed choice.
Voluntary departure can be requested while you are in immigration proceedings, either directly before your Master Calendar hearing (the brief introductory hearing, where you first speak with an immigration judge) or at the end of proceedings. It is important to understand what voluntary departure actually entails, however; there are potentially severe penalties if you are granted voluntary departure and fail to actually leave.
Voluntary departure, if applied for and then exercised, prevents the issuance of a removal order in your case - individuals with outstanding removal orders are refused re-entry for 10 years. If you are issued a removal order and fail to leave the U.S. by the relevant date, it can mean a bar to reentry for anywhere between five years and permanently, depending on what your original immigration offense was. Voluntary departure can be a way to avoid some of those hardships.
Criteria To Obtain Voluntary Departure
Depending when you apply for voluntary departure, if you decide to do so, there are varying criteria that you must meet in order to have a chance of receiving it. If you apply before the Master Calendar hearing, you must be prepared to show that not only do you concede removability, but you also waive all possible appeals or other requests for other types of relief (for example, if you had an application for asylum pending, you would agree to withdraw it). You must also show a clean criminal record (that is, no convictions for aggravated felonies), and that you are willing and financially able to depart.
If you request voluntary departure after the conclusion of your immigration proceedings, the criteria are different. You must show the following: (1) physical presence in the U.S. for at least one year before proceedings were initiated; (2) sufficient evidence that you are willing and financially able to depart; (3) good moral character for at least five years prior to the application for voluntary departure; and (4) you must possess the relevant travel documents and the ability to pay a bond if the judge requires it.
Be advised that even if you meet the criteria, you may still encounter immigration issues upon your application to return to the United States. Voluntary departure will not, for example, wipe away accrued unlawful presence, though it may help your eligibility for the relevant waiver.
An Immigration Attorney Can Help
It can feel like giving up to accept voluntary departure instead of fighting to remain in the country, but at times, it can be the best thing to do. Consulting an immigration attorney can help answer your questions about what can be a confusing process. The passionate Chicago deportation defense attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices, LLC can help answer your questions and suggest the right path for you. Contact us today to set up a consultation.
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