Written by attorney Christopher H. Ariano

If I am facing deportation/removal proceedings, what options do I have?

If you were arrested and are facing removal proceedings by US Customs and Enforcement (ICE), there are various forms of relief that may help you remain in the US. Note that you cannot be deported if you are a US Citizen. Sometimes people are unaware that they are, in fact, US citizens based on a relationship to a family member. If you are a US citizen, you should notify the Immigration Judge immediately.

Cancellation of removal

One form of relief available to those facing removal proceedings is cancellation of removal. You may be eligible for cancellation of removal if you meet the following requirements:

  • Permanent resident (green card) for at least 5 years, and
  • Lived in the US continuously for 7 years after having been admitted to the US, and
  • No aggravated felony conviction(s)

You may be eligible for cancellation of removal even if you never had a green card if:

  • You have been physically present in the US for 10 years, and
  • You have maintained good moral character during that time, and
  • Your deportation would cause ‘exceptional and extremely unusual’ hardship to your US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent or child

Most criminal convictions render you ineligible for this relief, because you cannot demonstrate good moral character.


There are a few waivers available to those facing removal proceedings. Under the section 212(c) waiver, if you pled guilty to a crime before April 24, 1996, your criminal conviction may be waived. In order to qualify, you must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Permanent resident (green card), and
  • Lived in the U.S. lawfully for 7 years, and
  • Have not served 5 or more years in prison for an aggravated felony

Another waiver available is the section 212(h) waiver. This waiver excuses you for certain crimes if you can prove that removal from the US would cause extreme hardship to a US citizen or permanent resident spouse, child or parent.

Other forms of relief

Some other forms of relief include asylum, withholding of removal, and the Convention Against Torture.

You may be eligible to apply for asylum if you fear harm in your country because of your race, religion, nationality, actual or suspected political opinion, or membership in a social group.

Withholding of Removal may be available to you if you can show that deportation would cause your freedom or life to be threatened due to your race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group.

Finally, you may be eligible for relief under the Convention Against Torture if you fear that you will be tortured if you return to your country.

Adjustment of status

Adjustment of Status is another form of relief available to those who satisfy one of the following:

  • Married a US citizen, or
  • Have a US citizen child over 21 years of age, or
  • Have a US citizen parent

However, you may be ineligible to adjust status if you were convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, a drug crime, or two crimes where you received a sentence of 5 years or more.


You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney in determining whether you qualify for relief from deportation. If none of these forms of relief apply, you may be left with the option of voluntary departure. Voluntary departure requires you to return your country.

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