What is Voluntary Departure?

Most people refer to the process of obtaining permanent residency status for immigration purposes as “getting a green card”. The green card is a card that is issued as proof that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has granted its approval for you to be in the United States as a permanent resident. Once you have been issued a green card, or a permanent residency status, you can freely live and work in the U.S.

If you are a green card holder, you should keep in mind that your “LPR” represent your legal status in the United States; as long as you comply with the terms and responsibilities of your status and renew your green card on a regular basis, you are considerate a lawful resident. If you do not comply with the U.S. regulations, if you have been committed for a crime, and so forth, you could be removed from the country and be in need of a lawyer.

Voluntary departure is a form of removal viewed as an extreme option because it does not allow an alien to remain in the United States. Through a voluntary departure an alien can avoid the consequences of a formal removal order, which as opposed to the former, includes fines and temporary or permanent bars to re-admission in the United States.

If an alien was in the U.S. unlawfully, he or she may still be barred from re-entry for a number of years, even though the departure was voluntary.

If you have been granted voluntary departure, you must leave the U.S. within a period specified by an immigration judge. In same cases, there is a bond of at least $500 to ensure that the alien leaves during the assigned period.

Moreover, if voluntary departure is granted before the competition of removal proceedings, an alien must depart within 120 days. Instead, if the departure is granted at the end of removal proceedings, an alien must depart within 60 days. A non-citizen who fails to departure the U.S. within the time specified in the voluntary departure order becomes subject to civil penalties. A civil monetary penalty may range between $1000 and $5000.

Another consequence if you fail to depart the U.S. on time has to do with your chances of obtaining future U.S. immigration status. You will face an automatic ten-year bar from being granted cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, change of status, registry, and further voluntary departure.

The ten-year bar is probably the most severe consequence to failing to depart under a voluntary departure order. If a non-citizen fails to voluntarily depart, the voluntarily departure order becomes an order to removal. Aliens should only apply for an order of voluntary departure if they really intend to and are able to timely depart and satisfy any other conditions imposed.