The Deportation Process for US Immigrants
If an immigrant — whether in the US legally or illegally — is served with a deportation notice, things can get confusing fast. Knowing more about the deportation process can clear up misconceptions and help immigrants in removal proceedings consider their options.
Deportation Process: The Beginning
The deportation process, more formally called “removal proceedings,” begins with the arrival of a letter from the Department of Homeland Security. The letter is called a Notice to Appear. The Notice to Appear should contain the following information:
- The immigrant’s name
- The immigrant’s home country
- A date to appear before an immigration judge
- Why the immigrant has been ordered to appear before an immigration judge
- If and how the immigrant broke the law
- The immigrant’s right to an attorney (who must be paid for by the immigrant)
- The consequences of failing to appear at the hearing
The Removal Hearing and Relief from Removal
The next step in the deportation process is attending the removal hearing on the date specified in the Notice to Appear.
At the removal hearing, the immigration judge determines whether the immigrant is eligible to be removed from the US, and if the immigrant is eligible for relief from removal.
If the immigrant is in any way eligible for relief from removal, he or she is allowed to apply to extend his or her stay in the US. If the immigrant is not eligible, the departure date from the US is set.
Deportation Process: Types of Relief
There are several types of relief from removal, with three being the most common. An immigration lawyer — the best resource to have at a removal hearing — can help the immigrant choose the type of removal relief he or she may be eligible for.
The three most common types of relief are:
1) Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of status occurs when an immigrant files for lawful permanent residency. To be able to do this, the immigrant in question must not be admissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act and must immediately qualify for an immigrant visa, often through a family member or employer.
Immigrants in the deportation process are not eligible for an adjustment of status if:
- They entered the US illegally
- They committed certain visa violations, such as overstaying the expiration date
- They failed to appear at the initial removal hearing
Asylum is granted to immigrants who cannot return to their home country because of past persecution or a great threat of persecution in the future based on race, nationality, religion or political opinion.
Immigration officials may not be willing to grant asylum to anyone who didn’t apply for it in the first year in the United States, or anyone who has committed crimes and may be considered a threat.
3) Cancellation of Removal
Cancellation of removal occurs when the immigration judge halts the deportation process. Green card holders are eligible for cancellation of removal if they have been in the country legally for seven years and have a clean record.
Immigrants who are not lawful permanent residents may qualify for a cancellation of removal if they:
- Have been in the US for 10 years
- Have not been served with a previous Notice to Appear
- Have not committed any crimes
- Prove that they are of “good moral character”
- Show that their deportation would cause extreme hardship to their family
The deportation process is a serious one, and immigrants should know that there are options available.
Hiring a reliable immigration lawyer is the best way to handle the deportation process.
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