Immigration & Naturalization Law

Applying for Removal Relief

Most immigrants in the United States are eligible to apply for deportation relief, although many do not realize it. Removal relief is simply the process of applying for a stay of removal or being granted an automatic stay of removal. Once an order for removal has been issued, most immigrants have the option of filing a petition with the Board of Immigration Appeals. This petition must be filed within 30 days of receiving an official notice of deportation from the Department of Homeland Security. Once an appeal has been filed, the DHS is not allowed to enforce a deportation order until the immigration judge has the opportunity to come to a decision in the case.

Discretionary Relief

Discretionary relief refers to the process by which a judge may grant permission for an immigrant to remain in the United States for a limited amount of time due to a variety of circumstances. In some cases, discretionary relief may offer a cancellation of removal, in which the judge decides to allow the alien to remain in the country permanently.

Cancellation of removal

Cancellation of removal is a type of removal relief offered to immigrants who qualify under certain moral and legal standards. They must have been lawful permanent residents for a period of no less than five years or have lived in the United States continuously after being granted legal entrance. It is also necessary that they have no history of aggravated felonies, such as drug trafficking, murder, or sexual crimes.


In other cases, people may be granted asylum if returning to their country would be considered dangerous. Other judges may offer an adjustment of status, which grants green card status to the non-resident so that he or she may remain in the United States. Finally, non-residents may obtain a voluntary departure, which allows them to leave the country without going through the deportation process.

Voluntary Departure

The process of voluntary departure is unique because it gives those who have come to the United States illegally the opportunity to leave without facing the severe consequences that come with a removal order. Voluntary removal makes it easier to reapply for citizenship at a later date, whereas a deportation results in a lengthy waiting period in most cases, during which time the person is unable to reapply for immigrant status. This period is typically a minimum of 10 years. In some cases, immigrants who obtain a voluntary departure through an immigration judge can return much sooner once they have their documentation in order.

A voluntary departure must be requested at the beginning of removal proceedings. Seeking a voluntary departure means forfeiting the right to seek any other form of removal relief. In the early stages of removal proceedings, a requested voluntary departure is all but guaranteed. Voluntary departures may also be granted before the person has received a hearing, after the hearing has begun but is not yet complete, and, in some cases, after the final order for removal is entered into the immigration system.

An immigration attorney can often provide assistance when it comes to determining whether a voluntary removal is a better option than applying for other forms of temporary removal relief, such as a stay or cancellation of removal.

Administrative/Judicial Relief

Administrative appeals are made to the Board of Immigration Appeals. This process occurs after an initial removal hearing, and its purpose is to overturn the decision of an immigration judge. This type of relief is provided through federal courts or the BIA.

The administrative appeals process begins when an immigrant or the Department of Homeland Security has a disagreement with the decision of an immigration judge and seeks to overturn the ruling. All administrative appeals must be filed within 30 days of the ruling. Immigration law grants federal appellate courts the authority to conduct these types of hearings. An immigration attorney may be able to provide representation for immigrants during a judicial hearing, as this is typically the last mode of appeal before deportation.

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