Deportation can be a terrifying experience. And as the current administration calls for even more immigration enforcement, the level of anxiety—for people living here illegally and legally—is only expected to rise. Horror stories of people being followed and taken into custody in front of their homes and at their places of employment have created a wave of fear in immigrant communities. Fortunately, in many of these cases, relief is available. Generally speaking, there are two categories of relief against deportation: discretionary and administrative/judicial. Read on to learn more about the different kinds of relief and when to hire an experienced immigration attorney.

Discretionary Relief

2 Ways to Obtain Asylum in the United States

2 Ways to Obtain Asylum in the United States

Becoming a Naturalized Citizen in 4 Steps

Facing Deportation? There's Hope.

See All »

If removal proceedings are underway, you may be able to obtain discretionary relief if you can show the immigration judge that you are deserving of and legally eligible for relief. If you can show good moral character, that you have no criminal record, and that deportation would cause you any level of hardship, you will likely be granted discretionary relief. Of course, this can be reversed at any time if circumstances change (i.e. you are arrested for any type of offense).

Cancellation of Removal

If you have been living in the U.S. for a minimum of 10 years, and you can show that deportation would result in “extreme hardship,” you may be able to apply for cancellation of removal during a hearing before an immigration judge. The decision, however, is still up to the judge’s discretion. According to Davorin Odrcic of Milwaukee-based Odrcic Law Group, LLC, "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" is typically satisfied by showing that a qualifying family member has a serious illness.

“This is especially true if the serious illness requires long-term medical care in the United States or significant developmental delays, such as a U.S. citizen child with severe autism. However, the standard could be met in other ways. For example, a child of a single parent could show the level of hardship needed for cancellation of removal. Likewise, a child with extraordinary abilities in athletics, arts, or academics could suffer immensely if forced to be separated from the parent or must move to the parent's home country where the child's extraordinary potential will likely evaporate,” said Odrcic.


If you qualify as a refugee, you may be able to obtain asylum in the United States. To be approved for asylum, you must be able to show that returning to your home country would put you at risk of persecution based on your race, religion, or political opinion, among other things. Unfortunately, as anyone who watches the news will have likely observed, the current political climate in the U.S. hasn’t been particularly kind to asylum seekers. Consider the thousands of Central American migrants being denied asylum and held in detention centers.

Adjustment of Status

You may be able to adjust your status from temporary to lawful permanent resident if you qualify through a family member or employer. There are exceptions. If you have a criminal record, for example, you may be ineligible. And this process doesn’t happen overnight; a one-step application can take four months, to up to an entire year to complete. If you qualify for the one-step process (you must be admissible to the U.S. and have a qualifying family relationship with a U.S. citizen), you will submit your immigrant visa petition and the adjustment of status application at the same time, along with fees of $1,000 or more. If you do not qualify for the one-step application, the process can take even longer.

Voluntary Departure

If all else fails, you may be able to obtain a voluntary departure. If approved, you will still need to return to your home country. However, without the stigma of a formal removal order, you will not be barred from gaining re-entry to the U.S. In addition, a grant of voluntary departure gives you an additional 60 to 120 days to remain in the country. That “grace period” allows more time to close bank accounts, sell property or terminate leases, set up future living arrangements, and say goodbye to friends and family.

Administrative/Judicial Relief

Similar to an appeal, administrative and judicial relief may be available once deportation hearings have concluded. If you request administrative or judicial relief, you are essentially seeking to overturn the judge’s order. Basically, if you disagree with the judge’s decision, you can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to have the ruling overturned. The BIA must receive such an appeal within 30 days of the date of issuance of the original order.

Avoid Deportation: Consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately

Immigration matters are complex and should not be handled without the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. There are multiple defenses to removal, and a skilled lawyer can position you for the most favorable outcome possible. Contact a skilled immigration attorney today.