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What is Voluntary Deportation?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Voluntary deportation is a program which was initiated relatively recently. It gives immigrants who are in the United States illegally a chance to turn themselves in. This option is for those who have not yet been discovered by immigration officials. In exchange for their willingness to leave the country, these immigrants are allowed to stay in the U.S. for several weeks in order to gather belongings and they are not detained in a prison or jail.

The main incentive for voluntary deportation is that immigrants who comply do not have to face jail time for entering the country illegally. Many individuals do not choose this route because it involves only those who have not yet been caught. Those with criminal records may face prison or jail regardless of whether or not they turn themselves in. Immigrants with no past criminal history aside from illegal immigration may not voluntarily be deported because they are less likely to be caught.

Voluntary deportation is not the same as voluntary departure. Voluntary departure is when an immigrant is caught in the country illegally but is given the chance to leave peacefully without legal proceedings against them. This is not the same as deportation because these individuals may be allowed to reenter the country legally at a later time. Those who are deported are often forbidden from reentering for many years and sometimes for life.

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Although those who undergo voluntary deportation are often restricted from reentering the country for a set period of time, they may not be restricted for as long as those who are deported unwillingly. This often depends on a person’s criminal record and the nature of any crimes committed. Those who have committed no additional crimes may be given fewer restrictions than those who have. Immigrants who have committed serious crimes, like murder or robbery, are typically deported for life.

Gaining permission to reenter the country can be difficult. Those who are fearful of living in their country may be able to enter or stay in the U.S. under certain conditions. Others may go through the process of getting a visa or green card at a later time. Each case is considered individually and various circumstances can affect one’s ability to enter the country legally.

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