If you entered the U.S. without permission, or were paroled in, but now wish to leave, you could leave the U.S. voluntarily. However, there are some things that you should be aware of.
If you afraid to live in your country, then you may want to apply for asylum instead of choosing to leave the U.S. Asylum is a legal status you can apply for if you are afraid to return to your home country. If you want to apply for asylum, you should do so now. If you leave the U.S. and then try to return and apply for asylum, it may be very hard to win your asylum case.
If you are afraid to live in your country but now want to leave the U.S., you should speak with an immigration attorney first to discuss your options.
Assuming you do not want to apply for asylum, if you came into the U.S. without permission, and you did not have any interactions with any immigration officials, then you can leave the U.S. without having to do anything first.
Keep in mind that if you choose to fly out of the U.S., sometimes immigration officials check the papers of people leaving this country, and can put you into deportation proceedings if they find that you were here without permission, even though you are already in the process of leaving on your own!
If you did have any interactions with immigration officials, then how you might leave the U.S. depends on where you are in the immigration process.
If you were given a Notice to Appear (NTA), an immigration court deportation case may have already been started against you. If you leave the U.S. without talking to the immigration judge first then they may issue an order that says you have a formal deportation order in your immigration record.
If you have a deportation order and leave the U.S., you would not be able to return lawfully for at least five years.
To avoid having a deportation order in your absence, it is a good idea to ask for permission to leave. That permission is called Voluntary Departure (VD).
Even if you don’t have a deportation order, you leave the U.S., and then try to return:
If you have a Canadian visa or if you are otherwise eligible to go to Canada, you can leave the U.S. and go to Canada. But be mindful of the issues discussed here about leaving the U.S. after being here for more than 180 days without permission, since you might not be able to return to the U.S. for several years.
If you want to apply for asylum and you are in the U.S. now, you will not be allowed to get asylum in Canada. You can apply for asylum in either the U.S. or Canada, in whichever country you entered first. Since you are in the U.S. now, you can apply for asylum only here in the U.S., not in Canada.
For more information, please call the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Helpline from 9:00am-5:00pm Monday through Friday at 844-955-3425.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 10 July 2023
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