Relief from Deportation, Removal and Exclusion

Deportation and exclusion were combined into a "removal" process as of April 1997. Aliens subject to deportation, removal or exclusion can seek relief or protection through a number of forms of relief including asylum, withholding of removal, adjustment of status, cancellation of removal, suspension of deportation, voluntary departure and waivers of inadmissibility. This article summarizes the available forms of relief. Some of the forms are addressed in more detail in separate articles.

Administrative Forms

Most forms of relief from removal are available only by requesting such relief from the administrative entity with authority to grant the relief. These administrative entities include the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, immigration officials, the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The forms of relief generally available include:

  • Asylum
  • Adjustment of Status
  • Cancellation of Removal
  • Suspension of Deportation
  • Voluntary Departure
  • Waivers of Inadmissibility


Aliens can seek asylum within the United States if they meet the following requirements:

  • They have a well founded fear of persecution in their country of origin on account of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion
  • They meet the legal definition of "refugee"
  • They have not been convicted of an aggravated felony

Even if an alien has a criminal conviction, the alien can apply for withholding of removal or seek protection under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Adjustment of Status

Aliens who are admitted and inspected or paroled into the United States may apply to adjust their status to permanent residence. Granting the adjustment is discretionary, and the application must be made to the immigration judge if removal proceedings have already begun.

Cancellation of Removal

Aliens who are lawful permanent residents or nonpermanent residents and who are subject to removal may apply for cancellation of removal so long as certain eligibility requirements are met. The relief is discretionary. If relief is granted, the removal order will not be effective and the alien will henceforth be a lawful permanent resident.

Suspension of Deportation

A suspension of deportation is similar to the cancellation of removal and applies only to aliens who apply under ยง 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) or under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). If the relief is granted, the alien's status is changed to that of lawful permanent resident.

Voluntary Departure

Eligible aliens subject to removal may request voluntary departure in order to avoid the restrictions to reentry that apply under formal removal or deportation orders. Voluntary departure must be requested during initial removal proceedings. The failure to depart voluntarily within the time allowed will subject the alien to severe penalties.

Waivers of Inadmissibility

Aliens subject to removal under grounds of inadmissibility may request a Cancellation of Removal.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What form of relief will benefit me the most?
  • Can I request more than one form of relief?
  • Can I seek relief even though I was convicted of a crime in the past?
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