"Voluntary departure" in California immigration cases
(8 C.F.R. § 1240.26)
Explained by Los Angeles Immigration Attorneys and Services

Voluntary departure is a way that non-citizens facing removal in California may leave the U.S. without a removal order. Unlike removal orders, voluntary departure does not prevent aliens from returning to the U.S. at a later time.

Aliens may request voluntary departure from either:

Aliens granted voluntary departure usually have 60 or 120 days to leave the U.S., depending on the case. And the alien may need to post a bond prior to exiting the country.

In this article, our California immigration law attorneys discuss how non-citizens in California may leave the U.S. without a removal order. Click on a question to jump directly to the answer:

For other ways of stopping deportation, refer to our articles on deportation in California, 15 ways to stop deportation, and cancellation of removal in California.

1. What is "voluntary departure"?

"Voluntary departure" is when the Attorney General allows an alien to leave the U.S. without giving him/her a removal order. In essence, voluntary departure is like a "get out of the country free card."

2. Is "voluntary departure" better than a removal order?

Yes. When an alien leaves the U.S on his/her own accord through voluntary departure, he/she does not receive a bar to admission if he/she tries to come back to the U.S. later on. 

In contrast, removal orders render non-citizens automatically inadmissible to the U.S. for many years.

3. How do I get "voluntary departure"?

A voluntary departure request can be made to either:

  1. ICE, prior to any court proceedings, or
  2. an immigration judge, at any time during court proceedings

Some of the considerations an immigration judge will review when determining whether to grant voluntary departure are:

  • Whether the alien has been on U.S. soil for at least one (1) year prior to the legal proceedings;
  • Whether the alien has committed a deportable offense;
  • Whether the alien has been of good moral character for the past five (5) years;
  • Whether the alien intends to leave the U.S.; and
  • Whether the alien has means to leave the U.S.

Depending on the case, ICE or the judge may require the alien pay a "voluntary departure bond." This money will be returned once the alien leaves the U.S. Note that aliens granted voluntary departure must leave the U.S. at their own expense.

Learn more about the California immigration court process.

4. When do I have to leave the U.S. if I am granted "voluntary departure"?

If the alien does not pursue any legal proceedings, the alien will probably get 120 days to depart the U.S. But if the alien pursues legal proceedings and asks for voluntary departure after these proceedings, the immigration judge will probably give the alien only 60 days to leave the U.S.

Note that aliens granted voluntary departure must depart within the allotted time frame. If the alien overstays, he/she will probably be fined and barred from deportation relief for up to ten (10) years.

5. Who is ineligible for "voluntary departure"?

Non-citizens who are ineligible for voluntary departure are:

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