Voluntary Departure vs. Deportation: What You Need to Know


Navigating the complexities of immigration law can be daunting, especially when facing the prospect of voluntary departure or deportation. Understanding the key differences between these two options is crucial for individuals involved in immigration proceedings. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of voluntary departure and deportation, outlining the eligibility criteria, implications, and potential consequences associated with each.


Voluntary Departure: A Brief Overview

What is Voluntary Departure?

Voluntary departure is a discretionary form of relief granted by immigration authorities, allowing certain non-citizens to leave the country voluntarily instead of undergoing formal removal proceedings.

Eligibility Criteria

1. No Criminal Record

Individuals seeking voluntary departure must have no criminal convictions that would render them ineligible for this relief.

2. Willingness to Depart

Applicants must express a genuine intention to leave the United States voluntarily within a specified timeframe.

Benefits of Voluntary Departure

1. Avoiding a Deportation Order

By voluntarily departing the country, individuals can avoid the stigma and legal ramifications associated with a formal deportation order.

2. Potential Reentry Options

Unlike deportation, voluntary departure may preserve the possibility of future legal reentry into the United States under certain circumstances.

Deportation: Understanding the Process

What is Deportation?

Deportation, also known as removal, is the formal process by which non-citizens are ordered to leave the United States based on violations of immigration law.

Grounds for Deportation

1. Immigration Violations

Deportation proceedings may be initiated due to various immigration violations, including unlawful entry, visa overstays, or status violations.

2. Criminal Convictions

Individuals convicted of certain crimes, including aggravated felonies or crimes of moral turpitude, may be subject to deportation.

Consequences of Deportation

1. Bar to Reentry

Deportation typically results in a bar to reentry, prohibiting individuals from returning to the United States for a specified period or indefinitely.

2. Detention

During deportation proceedings, individuals may be detained in immigration detention facilities, pending a final decision on their case.

Comparing Voluntary Departure and Deportation

Legal Ramifications

1. Reentry Options

Voluntary departure may offer more favorable prospects for future legal reentry compared to deportation, which often results in a lengthy bar to reentry.

2. Administrative Closure

In some cases, individuals granted voluntary departure may have their immigration proceedings administratively closed, providing temporary relief from the threat of deportation.

Financial Considerations

1. Cost of Departure

While voluntary departure may involve expenses such as travel costs, legal fees, and posting a bond, it is often less costly than fighting deportation through prolonged legal proceedings.

2. Potential Loss of Assets

Individuals facing deportation may risk the loss of assets, including property and financial resources, if they are unable to settle their affairs before removal.


In conclusion, the decision between voluntary departure and deportation carries significant implications for individuals navigating the complexities of immigration law. While voluntary departure offers certain benefits, such as avoiding a formal deportation order and preserving reentry options, it is essential to weigh the potential consequences carefully. Ultimately, seeking guidance from a qualified immigration attorney is crucial to making informed decisions and safeguarding one’s rights in immigration proceedings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I apply for voluntary departure if I have a criminal record?
    • Applicants with certain criminal convictions may be ineligible for voluntary departure. It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney to assess your eligibility.
  2. How long does a deportation order stay on my record?
    • Deportation orders typically remain on an individual’s record indefinitely, potentially impacting future immigration applications and travel.
  3. What happens if I ignore a deportation order?
    • Ignoring a deportation order can have serious consequences, including arrest, detention, and further legal penalties. It is essential to comply with immigration authorities and seek legal guidance promptly.
  4. Is voluntary departure the same as self-deportation?
    • While voluntary departure involves leaving the country voluntarily, self-deportation implies an informal departure without involvement from immigration authorities. It is crucial to follow the proper legal procedures to avoid potential repercussions.
  5. Can I appeal a deportation order?
    • Yes, individuals subject to deportation orders may have the right to appeal their case through the immigration court system. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can help assess your options for appeal.