What to Expect and What You Can Do
When an alien is found to be in violation of the United States immigration laws, he or she may be formally removed from the country. People may be deported for staying longer than the duration of their visa, for violating other terms of their visa, or for breaking other United States federal, state, county or municipal laws.
After an immigration judge has found that an alien is illegally present in the United States, it does not necessarily follow that the person will be deported. The United States Immigration and Nationality Act has set forth many ways in which aliens may avoid being deported even after having been found in violation of their visas. Some of these options include:
- Waivers of excludability and deportability may be issued if it is found that the person’s deportation would result in extreme hardship to his or her spouse or children.
- Cancellation of removal for a permanent resident may be ordered by an immigration judge if the person has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for at least five years and has lived here for at least seven years, if the person has not been convicted of a felony, and if he or she is not inadmissible to the country on security grounds.
- Cancellation of removal for a non-permanent resident may be ordered by an immigration judge if the person has been physically present in the United States for at least 10 years prior to the deportation hearing (this requirement is waived for individuals who have served at least two years in the United States Armed Forces). The person must not have committed marriage fraud, falsified immigration documents, or have been deemed inadmissible on criminal or security grounds. Such a cancellation may only be ordered when the person’s deportation would cause extreme hardship to his or her lawfully residing family members.
- Suspension of deportation may be granted for a person who has been continuously physically present in the United States for at least seven years and who has displayed good moral character during that time. It must be proved that deportation would confer extreme hardship on that person or on his or her lawfully residing family members.
- Adjustment of status to permanent residence may occur when the person is the legal spouse, parent or child of a United States citizen. Also, a person whose priority dates for permanent residence are current may apply for such an adjustment.
- Asylum and withholding of deportation may be granted if the person has a legitimate fear of persecution in his or her home country based on religious belief, ethnicity, political opinion or affiliation, nationality or membership in a certain group. If a person is granted asylum, he or she may apply for permanent residency status after one year. If a person’s deportation is withheld but asylum is not granted, the USCIS is only prevented from deporting that person to one particular country.
- Legalization and registry is available to people who have lived in the United States since before January 1, 1972, are persons of good moral character, who are not deportable on certain aggravated grounds and who are not ineligible for citizenship.
- Voluntary departure is the last resort for individuals facing deportation. If there is no option to stay legally in the United States, aliens should ask for permission to leave voluntarily. This will allow them to avoid the legal impediments to returning imposed by a prior deportation. Individuals are eligible for voluntary departure if they can show that they can pay for their departure from the United States, if they agree to leave within a specified time, and if they can establish a history of good moral character.
Factors that will work in your favor include
- Strong ties to the community such as family and employment
- Community involvement such as church membership and volunteerism
- Service in the United States Armed Forces
- Ownership of property
- Evidence of good moral character
- For people who have been convicted of crimes, evidence of rehabilitation may also be considered.