Written by attorney Uzoamaka Angela Akpele

Voluntary Departure

Voluntary Departure is a form of relief that one who is in removal proceedings before the immigration court may request. One may request voluntary departure in the alternative to other relief that one may have available. Sometimes it is the only available relief for a respondent in immigration court. When one is granted voluntary departure, one is allowed to leave the United States by oneself as though one left by oneself, thus avoiding the consequences of having the immigration court enter an order of removal. One may request this relief both at the beginning of his removal proceedings or at the end when one's other request for relief has been denied. Your immigration attorney will advise you on your options in this regard. An individual who is granted voluntary departure is given a certain number of days within which to leave the US. Sometimes one is required to post bond with the Department of Homeland Security. If bond is a requirement, it is usually payable within 5 days or the order of voluntary departure automatically converts into an order of removal. The order of voluntary departure will also automatically convert into a removal order if one remains in the US even for a day longer than the given day of departure. In addition to this, one would be subject to civil penalties and would become ineligible for certain other forms of immigration benefits for quite a while. It is therefore very important to be sure that one means to depart before one requests an order of voluntary departure. In certain circumstances though, one may be pardoned for failing to depart after taking an order or voluntary departure. When one is leaving pursuant to an order of voluntary departure, one should save one's ticket and boarding pass. If possible, have an arrival stamp put into your passport on arriving your destination. If one was given documents to be returned to the US consulate, one should turn in the documents as this is required to recover one's bond payment (if one had to make one). Of course it is also very good evidence of one's departure from the US. Voluntary departure can be a very useful relief but it only depends on the particular circumstances. It will not cure the 3/10 year bar where one has been unlawfully present in the US for long periods of time. There is a way to overcome this bar. An example of a case where voluntary departure would be useful is this: A came into the US as a tourist and given a stay of 6 months. During his stay, he meet and marries B who is a permanent resident who then files a relative petition for him. He remains in the US for 1 month past his allowed stay and during this extra month is picked up by ICE during a raid in a restaurant where he was eating during and ICE raid. A is put into removal proceedings. A would be a good candidate for voluntary departure. If he is granted voluntary departure and he does depart, in time he would probably be able to obtain an immigrant visa (if he meets other requirements) when his priority date eventually becomes current. One who is in removal proceedings should be sure to discuss all available forms of relief with one's immigration attorney. Note that one who is given voluntary departure is not bound to return to his country of citizenship. You can go anywhere you will be accepted.

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