U.S. Removal or Deportation Proceedings: What You Need to Know

United States Removal or Deportation Proceedings

It is overwhelming and intimidating to go through removal or deportation proceedings. Many individuals and families facing removal or deportation proceedings may feel their lives being uprooted and thrown into chaos.

You don’t have to go through this process alone—our experienced attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. are here to help you navigate the complicated laws and regulations of removal proceedings. We understand that your most important goals are to reunite with your family, remain in the U.S., or both. We will use our experience and knowledge of immigration law to develop the best legal strategy for your case.

What Is Deportation?

The terms deportation and removal have the same meaning. “Removal” is the legal term and often used interchangeably with “deportation.”

Deportation involves three primary stages:

  1. Initiation of removal proceedings
  2. Issuance of a deportation order
  3. The act of removal/deportation

The first stage of the deportation process is removal proceedings. This article will concentrate on removal proceedings and explore potential strategies for handling your case.

What Does Removal Proceedings Mean in Immigration

A removal proceeding happens when the government starts the process for an order of removal. In this case, an immigration judge or officer will determine whether you can remain in the United States. The U.S. government can initiate removal proceedings against anyone in the country illegally, meaning they did not go through proper channels to enter or remain in the U.S.

Additionally, those inside the U.S. on a visa or other temporary status may be subject to removal proceedings if their authorization expires or if they violate any of the terms of their status.

Who Can Be Removed?

Code 8 U.S.C. § 1227 establishes the grounds for deporting people.

Common causes of removal proceedings include:

  • Violation of green card status terms
  • Marriage fraud
  • Residing in the U.S. without proper legal immigration status
  • Overstaying visa
  • Involvement in criminal activity
  • They were inadmissible during adjustment of status or while entering the U.S.

Removal proceedings can be initiated for many other reasons. In most cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accuses non-U.S. citizens of violating a law that renders them removable.

How to Determine If You Are in Removal Proceedings

If the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) places you in removal proceedings, they will issue an official Notice to Appear (NTA).

You can access your immigration court records through the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) website. Enter your Alien Registration Number (A-number) to check for scheduled hearings or pending removal proceedings.

Deportation Process Timeline

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducts removal proceedings. The DHS will first serve the non-citizen with a Notice to Appear (NTA). The NTA will cover information such as the alleged grounds for removal and your right to an attorney.

Master Calendar Hearing

The first hearing is the master calendar hearing. If you do not appear in person on your hearing date, you will be issued an automatic removal. You can bring your attorney with you to this meeting.

Merit Hearing

You and your deportation defense lawyer will explore options for the next steps. If you devise a plan to defend against your removal (such as using an adjustment of status approach), you will move on to the merit hearing. The merit hearing(s) allow you and your immigration lawyer to present your case. Your attorney can help you gather evidence and conduct questions for the merit hearings.

Can You Leave the U.S. While in Removal Proceedings?

Whether you can leave the U.S. while in removal proceedings is a critical question, and unless you meet specific conditions, the short answer is generally “no.” Leaving the United States while under removal proceedings can have serious consequences, including being barred from re-entry for several years or even for life.

What Happens If You Leave?

  1. Automatic Removal Order: If you depart the U.S. while in removal proceedings without resolving your case, it may be considered self-deportation, resulting in an automatic order of removal against you.
  2. Bar to Re-entry: Leaving without resolving your case may result in a bar to re-entry, ranging from 5 to 20 years, or even a permanent bar under certain circumstances.
  3. Abandonment of Applications: If you leave the U.S., pending applications for relief, such as adjustment of status or asylum, are generally considered abandoned.

You can request a voluntary departure from the immigration judge, which may allow you to leave the U.S. without an order of removal. However, you must meet certain conditions and depart within a specific timeframe.

Infrequently, individuals in removal proceedings might obtain advance parole for urgent humanitarian reasons, but this is risky and often not advisable. Before you leave the U.S., consult an immigration attorney to understand the ramifications and explore possible alternatives.

Can I Get Married While in Removal Proceedings?

The short answer is yes. You can get married while in removal proceedings; however, the process comes with unique challenges and complexities.

Marrying a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) while in removal proceedings could open an avenue for an adjustment of status, allowing you to stay in the country. However, USCIS and immigration judges will closely scrutinize a marriage under these circumstances to ensure it is not fraudulent or intended to evade deportation. Be prepared for rigorous interviews and possibly even a home visit to confirm the authenticity of your marriage.

You can present your marriage and pending I-130 as a defense against removal. But marrying while in removal proceedings is a complicated matter that should not be taken lightly.

The attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. can help you navigate this complex situation and develop a robust legal strategy tailored to your unique circumstances.

Can I Get a Green Card While in Removal Proceedings?

Although obtaining a green card, or Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR), while in removal proceedings can be a challenging task,  it is not impossible.

It largely depends on the specifics of your case. If you are married to a U.S. citizen or are otherwise eligible through family or employment sponsorship, you may be able to adjust your status to obtain your green card. Adjusting your status is one of the most common routes to obtaining a green card while in removal proceedings.

What Are Your Options to Avoid Deportation?

You may feel overwhelmed and uncertain when you or a loved one is at risk of deportation. Your biggest question might be, “How do I stop removal proceedings?” We’ve outlined several options to avoid a formal removal process from the United States.

Tips on How to Avoid a Formal Removal Process From the U.S

Adjustment of Status

Commonly, an adjustment of status (AOS) is an application for immigrants located in the U.S. who want to change their status to lawful permanent resident (LPR). However, individuals can also use AOS as a defense during removal proceedings.

When facing removal proceedings, an individual can adjust their status based on their marriage or relationship to a U.S. Citizen or LPR. The USCIS will review and either approve or deny an I-130 petition (the form you complete to file for AOS). An immigration lawyer at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. can help you with AOS paperwork and defend you throughout the removal process.

Learn More About Adjustment of Status


If you are facing removal proceedings and cannot or do not want to return to your home country due to persecution, you may be eligible to apply for asylum.

Foreign nationals who demonstrate that they have been persecuted or will likely face persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group can apply for asylum.

The asylum application process varies depending on whether you are in the process of being deported or not. Individuals who are facing removal proceedings have different requirements and deadlines compared to those who are not in removal proceedings.

If you are in removal proceedings and intend to apply for asylum, you must inform the immigration judge and submit your application before the deadline. You must also demonstrate that you meet the legal definition of a refugee.

If you are not facing removal proceedings, you can submit your asylum application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You must also meet the legal definition of a refugee.

It is critical to seek legal assistance from an immigration lawyer familiar with the asylum application process as soon as possible. They can help you navigate complex requirements and procedures and work to protect your rights throughout the process.

Learn More About Political Asylum

Cancellation of Removal

Foreign nationals facing removal proceedings may be able to fight deportation by applying for cancellation of removal. Depending on the circumstances, this application can waive certain immigration violations.

To be eligible for cancellation of removal, you must meet specific requirements, such as proving that you have been physically present in the United States for a certain number of years and that your removal would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent.

If an individual successfully obtains a cancellation of removal, they become eligible to keep or obtain permanent residency in the United States. Permanent residency can be a complex legal process. Seek the guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer to provide support and help you navigate the legal requirements.

Learn More About Cancellation of Removal

Withholding of Removal

Withholding of removal is an option for foreign nationals who can prove there is a significant likelihood of persecution in their home country or country of origin if they return. Anyone granted withholding of removal is protected from being deported to the country where they fear persecution.

This option is similar to asylum but inferior in several ways. The primary difference between the two is the level of proof required to be eligible. To qualify for asylum, applicants must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

In contrast, to be eligible for withholding of removal, an applicant must demonstrate a strong likelihood of persecution if they return to their home country.

Another difference is the benefits available. An individual can apply for permanent residency in the United States if granted asylum. However, withholding of removal does not provide individuals with the right to work in the U.S. or travel outside the country. In addition, withholding of removal does not provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Although withholding of removal is inferior to asylum in several ways, crimes that disqualify applicants from securing asylum do not make them ineligible for withholding or removal.

Learn More About Withholding of Removal

Convention Against Torture

The Convention Against Torture (CAT) is an uncommon form of protection granted to foreign nationals who fear torture in their country of origin or home country, either directly by the government or with its tacit approval.

In cases where foreign nationals are ineligible for withholding removal and asylum, CAT may be their only recourse to remain in the United States. Under CAT, individuals must demonstrate that it is more likely than not that they will face torture if returned to their home country. If approved, CAT protects them from removal but does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or citizenship.

We strongly recommend consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer to ensure you meet all the legal requirements and deadlines for filing a CAT application.

Learn More About Convention Against Torture

INA 212(h) Waivers

212(h) waivers are part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and are generally used alongside AOS  to authorize discretionary waivers of certain inadmissible crimes. 

People who are inadmissible to the U.S. due to criminal convictions may use INA 212(h) waivers. These waivers provide a deportation defense for applicants who can prove they have been rehabilitated, are not a threat to national welfare and safety, and that the criminal activity occurred more than 15 years before they applied for entry into the U.S.

The application process can be complex and requires careful consideration of specific circumstances. It is essential to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to assess eligibility and determine the best course of action.

The application process can be complex and requires careful consideration of specific circumstances. It’s essential to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to assess eligibility and determine the best course of action.

Learn More About 212(h) Waivers

Voluntary Departure

The final option to avoid deportation is voluntary departure. This alternative is preferable for those who want to avoid the negative consequences of a deportation order.

A formal deportation order often includes a 10-year bar on re-entry to the U.S. With a voluntary departure, the individual is not subject to this penalty and may be able to reapply for admission to the U.S. later.

Voluntary departure allows individuals to maintain control over their departure from the U.S. rather than being forcibly removed by immigration authorities. This option benefits individuals who have established lives in the U.S. and wish to leave on their terms.

However, it’s important to note that voluntary departure may require individuals to pay for their travel expenses and leave the U.S. within a specific timeframe.

Additionally, individuals may be subject to additional penalties and formal deportation orders if they fail to meet the conditions of voluntary departure or leave within the designated timeframe.

Learn More About Voluntary Departure

Contact an Attorney

At Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., we are here to provide you with the high-quality and affordable representation you need to fight against removal proceedings. Our Chicago removal and deportation defense attorney firm will be with you every step of the way as we navigate removal proceeding options.

While working with a removal and deportation defense attorney in Chicago, we will review your status and find the best way to confront removal proceedings.

Contact a member of our team today.

For questions and/or to arrange a consultation with one of our attorneys contact us now

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