Voluntary Departure As An Alternative to Deportation

By: Dennis E. Chua, Esq.

Individuals who are in the country unlawfully and who would just like to leave the country may request for voluntary departure. The US government has viewed the grant of voluntary departure as a privilege given to individuals who wish to avail of this relief. Since the grant of voluntary departure is a privilege, the government can dictate the terms of the grant of voluntary departure.

The request may be made before the US Department of Homeland Security if a person has not been put in removal/deportation proceedings. If the person has been issued a Notice to Appear and is now in removal/deportation proceedings before the Immigration Court, the request for voluntary departure should be made before the Immigration Court.

A person who is not in removal proceedings may be granted up to 120 days by the Department of Homeland Security if the person agrees to leave the country at his own expense instead of being put in removal proceedings.

Once a person has been put in removal proceedings, he may request for voluntary departure either before the proceedings are completed or at the conclusion of the proceedings as a primary or alternative relief.

If voluntary departure is requested during the initial stages of removal proceedings, the Immigration Court may grant a person up to 120 days within which to leave the country voluntarily. The person must show that he has the proper travel document to leave the country and that he has or will be able to make travel arrangements for his departure.

If voluntary departure is requested at the completion of removal proceedings, the immigration court can grant the individual no more than 60 days to depart the country voluntarily.

There are however, severe consequences if a person fails to leave the country within time period specified for voluntary departure. The person who fails to leave may be subjected to a monetary fine of up to $5,000 and will be barred for ten years from seeking any other relief such as adjustment of status, change of status, cancellation of removal and voluntary departure.

Since the penalties for failing to depart within the period of time specified in the grant for voluntary departure are quite severe, a person must carefully consider the consequences of a voluntary departure order before opting to request for the relief of voluntary departure.

Atty.  Dennis E. Chua is a partner in The Law Firm of Chua Tinsay and Vega (CTV) -  a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego and Manila.  The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship.   The CTV attorneys will be holding regular free legal clinics at the Max’s Restaurant in Vallejo, California.  Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (415) 495-8088; (619) 955-6277; Dchua@ctvattys.com.
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