I am illegally in the U.S. from Mexico, and have been in the U.S. for three years. Immigration caught up with me while I was working, and gave me a date to come to immigration court. I talked to a lawyer who said I don’t really have a case to stay in the U.S., but that I should apply for voluntary departure, because it will look better on my immigration record than an order of removal. I don’t want to pay any more to a lawyer if I have to leave the U.S. anyway. But to help me plan, if I ask for voluntary departure, how long will the judge give me before I have to pack and go?
A judge who grants your request for voluntary departure (“VR”) request is likely to give you either 60 or 120 days in which to leave the United States. The exact number depends upon the point in the proceedings at which you make your request.
If you request voluntary departure either before your first hearing (which you would probably need to get an attorney’s help to do) or after the proceedings have begun – namely at your first, scheduling hearing, called a “master calendar” hearing – the judge can give you up to 120 days. You will have to “concede removability” (admit that you do not have a right to remain in the U.S.), request no relief from removal (that is, not separately claim a remedy such as asylum or cancellation of removal), waive (give up) any right to appeal, and have no aggravated felonies on your criminal record.
If you wait until the end of removal proceedings when the judge has made a decision in your case – which you would want to do if you have some sort of immigration case to present, based perhaps on asylum or marriage to a U.S. citizen – then the judge can grant you no more than 60 days’ voluntary departure.
In the latter case you would have to have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year before you got the “Notice to Appear” in Immigration Court (the “NTA”), demonstrate good moral character for at least the five years before making your voluntary departure request (any crimes on your record will look bad in this instance), have no aggravated felony convictions on your record, and be able to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that you not only intend to leave the U.S. by the appropriate date, but can actually afford to do so. To back up your showing of financial means and intention, you will have to post a bond within five days of the immigration judge’s grant of VR.
Once you accept voluntary departure, you really must leave within the allotted days, or face further consequences.